Waiting for the Rain Essay - Critical Context

Sheila Gordon

Critical Context

Waiting for the Rain is one of the few realistic novels available describing accurately the turbulent 1980’s in South Africa. Its riveting story is often used in classes that stress multicultural literature. The Middle of Somewhere: A Story of South Africa (1990) is Sheila Gordon’s other novel set in the same period, but it is written for younger children, omitting the violence found in Waiting for the Rain.

Two similar dramatic accounts are Beverley Naidoo’s Journey to Jo’burg (1985) and its sequel, Chain of Fire (1989), in which Naledi, her brother Tiro, and her friend Taolo are courageous young protesters. Mark Mathabane’s autobiographical Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa (1986) is another gripping account. My Name Is Not Angelica (1989) is Scott O’Dell’s historically accurate treatment of the slave trade along the southeastern coast of Africa in the eighteenth century. Based on historical fact, it makes superb background reading for stories of this troubled land. Lesley Beake’s inspiring Song of Be (1991) is another realistic work in which a young bushwoman tells her own story of freedom turned into terror, of recovery and love in postcolonial Namibia.

Although violence and tragedy are themes in these well-written books, the terror that they portray nevertheless leaves young readers with a feeling of hope because in these works the youthful characters act bravely to bring about change. In Gordon’s compelling novel, Tengo and his cousin Joseph are two of the many youths whose voices, like Be’s, ring true. They will survive as they struggle for peace and understanding.