Women's Speaker Series: Bianca Marais, author of Hum If You Don't Know the Words

Sunday, July 23, 2017, 2 pm

WSS: Bianca Marais, 7/23/17

Fee: $30/$25 members - includes an autographed copy of Hum If You Don't Know the Words, refreshments from MKE Localicious, and admission to the sculpture garden. Register by phone at 414-446-8794.

Margy Stratton, founder and executive producer of Milwaukee Reads produces this series of events featuring writers of particular interest to women.

Lynden Sculpture Garden's Women's Speaker Series and Boswell Books welcome Bianca Marais, author of Hum If You Don't Know the Words, to the Lynden Sculpture Garden, Sunday, July 23, 2-4 pm.

About Hum If You Don't Know the Words

Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred... until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built and shatters their worlds when Robin's parents are left dead and Beauty's daughter goes missing.

Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

"Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a marvel. Set in South Africa in 1978, this is the story of Robin, a white child, and Beauty, a black mother, both of whom experience immense loss after the Soweto student uprising. Bianca Marais has written a book about apartheid--a book about tragedy, injustice, grief, and survival--that manages to sparkle with wit, warmth, and charming secondary characters. Readers will love this rare and rewarding gem."
--Emilie Sommer, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC

"I enjoy reading novels about historical events that have occurred during my lifetime, but I don’t remember much about the Soweto uprising in South Africa in 1976. I was living in Buffalo, a self-absorbed ten years old, about the age of Robin Conrad in the terrific new novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. Robin is a nine-year old white girl living with her family in Johannesburg, while Beauty Mbali is a black woman raising her children alone in Bantustan. The Soweto uprising causes both of their worlds to implode, when Robin’s parents are murdered and Beauty’s daughter, a student activist, disappears. When Robin’s aunt hires Beauty to look after Robin while she works, the two form a close bond. Events escalate when Robin conceals information about Beauty’s missing daughter. Robin learns that her family’s views about other races may not be correct, and Beauty comes to love Robin like one of her own children."
--Sharon K. Nagel, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

About the Author

Bianca Marais is from South Africa and moved to Toronto in 2012. Marais started work on Hum If You Don’t Know the Words while doing her Creative Writing Certificate through the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She lives with her long-suffering husband as well as a golden retriever, two cats and an overactive imagination.


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