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Literature | Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

Blurb – ‘Would I have turned out to be nothing if Mama had not married Daddy? Would I not be the same Ofilwe I am now if Mama had never made it out of the dreaded location? What if Mama had chosen love, where would I be now? What would I be now? Nothing?

Coconut is an extraordinary debut novel about growing up black in white suburbia, where the cost of fitting in can be your very identity. It is against this backdrop of potential loss that two extraordinary young women struggle to find themselves.

Coconut explores the different lives of two young, black women in post-Apartheid South Africa – Ofilwe, who grows up in a privileged world and is eager to fit in to the European ideal, and Fikile, who comes from a township and appears desperate to re-write her past and also fit into the ideal. Whilst on different paths in life and from very different backgrounds, they share the same disdain for each other through their limited interaction, without realising their commonalities.

The book itself is divided into two parts, told by the view of each young woman. It was interesting to see the perspectives of two very different young, black women trying to find their identity, or rather trying to run from it. Fikile’s run, and the second part of the book, was perhaps more overt and more obvious. This may be why I felt the second part of the book was more engaging, the ‘Coconut’ theme seemed to be more strongly conveyed through her story.

This was a good, uncomplicated read. However, I did feel like I was expecting more. This may be because I had been looking forward to reading this book for a while and every time I went to buy it, it was out of stock, serving to heighten my expectations. But as the book rightly points out, these are every day stories that may not be newsworthy, but stories that have to be told. I think these are two stories that strip back the glamour and go straight to the heart of the matter, of identity, of an African identity and of its importance.

Have you read ‘Coconut’ yet? If yes, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


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