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Tim McKee & Anne Blackshaw talk about South Africa…

"We did not go to South Africa with the intention of writing a book. We went to see firsthand the changes sweeping the nation in the years following Nelson Mandela’s historic election in 1994, and to live and work in a country that was literally re-creating itself.

The work that we found there, Tim as a high school teacher and Anne as a community organizer, brought us into everyday contact with ordinary people who had extraordinary stories to tell. Particularly interesting to us were the stories of South Africa’s teenagers who, like the nation itself, were on the cusp of two worlds. They seemed to relish the chance to not only enjoy their new nation, but to help build it. Their stories captured the intensity, resiliency, and faith so fundamental to South Africa’s spirit and survival.

We knew from having grown up in the United States that South Africa was generally portrayed by the international media as a distant, violent country, but we also knew from living in South Africa that its richness and beauty went far beyond such shallow stereotypes.. We hoped that by using personal narratives from South Africans themselves, we might add some color to the world’ back and white picture.

In seeking these stories, we spent ten months speaking with more than sixty-five teenagers from all over South Africa about their lives. We walked down dusty paths to remote villages, clunked along potholed roads to sprawling townships, and whizzed down modern highways to elegant suburbs. We attended the largest indoor church in South Africa, watch the chase and slaughter of a ceremonial chicken, and were granted an audience with a traditional African chief at his royal residence.

What we learned on our journey, more than anything, is that the human spirit is more powerful than any force that tries to suppress it. Africans call this ubuntu, which Archbishop Desmond Tutu has defined as "the essence of being human…It recognized that my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together."

Tim McKee lived in South Africa for four years, witnessing the final years of apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s historic victory while teaching history and English at the multiracial high school in Johannesburg. After studying for his master’s degree in journalism at the University, he returned to South Africa in 1996 to work wit his former students and to launch the school’s first student newspaper. His experiences with his students sparked the creation of this book. A graduate of Princeton University, Tim McKee now lives in northern California. This is his first book.

Anne Blackshaw first began documenting the lives of South Africans with her camera in 1992.

She then worked as a civil rights advocate in the California legislature. She returned to South Africa in 1996 to serve as an organizer and counselor for People Opposing Women Abuse in Johannesburg where she continued her work as a photographer, focusing on women and young people. This book was her way of capturing some of the vibrant spirit propelling change in South Africa. Ann Blackshaw now lives in northern California. This is her first book.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his outspoken courage during the reign of South African apartheid. The recipient of more than 20 honorary doctorates and numerous international awards, Desmond Tutu has taught at two universities and served as Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches.

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