Disclaimer: I wouldn’t really call this a book review – just don’t dig the term. Also don’t feel like I’m qualified to write such yet. I’m just telling you that I read this book, how it made me feel and why or why not one should give it a read. That’s all. Let’s rather call it a ‘Literary Post-Mortem’ (I like that)
Onwards with A Bantu in My Bathroom by Eusebius McKaiser then. Been wanting to read this book for some time, but being the broke student I am it just never happened. Umtil I got this as a gift, yays.
Before I tell you how awesome a read it was, I must mention that I am a fan of the man. At some point in my second year at Wits I considered taking up Philosophy in the hopes of being lectured by him at some point. However, reason and a passion for what I was already doing steeled me. Anyway back to why I’m a fan – I love his insights and the way he chooses to deal with difficult topics that many are reluctant to. Along with this I find him quite relatable – not all the time but I mostly get him/what he’s saying.
The book is basically a collection of essays based on a variety of topics. Namely race, culture and sexuality. Under each section there are about four to five essays, which aim at tackling various aspects of the ‘big issue’ at hand. Unsurprisingly, my favourite essays were in the race section. I think that it is still important to look at and understand why race is still an important contributing factor to the lived South African experience. He mentioned that we can’t pretend we don’t see race just to avoid being labelled ‘racist’.
McKaiser highlights some of the most important race related challenges South Africans face. He explains why Affirmative Action is necessary, discusses white privilege, tackles the issue of whether or not black people can be racist and much more. Even though one might disagree in places, I did find myself agreeing with him 80% of the time – not just in this section but throughout the rest of the book.
In the sexuality section he spoke about ‘coming out’, love and even rape. This part of the book was the most personal for me and as such riveting to read. When it came to culture he looked at ploygamy, divisions present in our society and the advantages and disadvantages of being a so-called coconut. The range of issues raised in his essays is quite big. I was not left wanting when I was done reading – I legit felt like he discussed everything one could in 209 pages.
We should instead accept that we are deeply divided – spatially, linguistically, culturally, ideologically – and reflect on how we might live in each other’s space while disagreeing deeply with each other. The alternative, fake national unity, is simply childish. (excerpt from the book)
What I enjoyed the most were the little anecdotes that coloured his essays. For me it helped to bring home his points and also offered an unique peep into his personal life. I have often seen McKaiser on tv, attended seminar’s that he spoke at and listened to his show on radio. This book felt like the literary incarnation of those experiences. Not the content but with regards to style. It was easy read and understand because he was just being himself (or so I assume). He did stress how important authenticity is to him so I imagine he wrote in a way that would reflect that.
I also liked and admired the fact that he didn’t ‘other’ people. He didn’t speak about racists, homophobes and misogynists in a distanced manner. He made it clear that we are these people, that we are our biggest problem in many cases. Also highlighting that change can only begin with us.
If I had the money I would go out of my way to buy a few people a copy. The idea’s put forward are of great import and I feel that the more people they reach the better.