(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Although it was not expressly intended for a young adult audience, July’s People may attract young readers through its themes. A major theme is racial discrimination. South Africa’s policy of apartheid, government-approved and-enforced discrimination, is not dealt with directly. Instead, Gordimer portrays how the policy affects various types of people: liberal, privileged white people; rural black people; and black people forced to split their lives between two worlds, the urban areas where they work and the rural areas where their families are forced to live. This approach opens the novel to themes beyond discrimination to those of initiation, mistaken views of oneself and one’s world, role-playing, and role reversal—all themes relevant to young lives.

The novel is a narrative of initiation, but ironically the character coming-of-age is thirty-nine years old. Maureen Smales comes to evaluate her life—her naïve political views, her relationships with her husband and with July, and her responsibility to herself—only when she is removed from her society and forced to adapt to life in July’s village. For example, she wants to share the workload in the community but is rebuffed because she does not belong. Through her own experience of isolation and worthlessness, she begins to understand more about July’s life in Johannesburg, how her treatment of him was acceptable from her perspective but often insulting from his. A political liberal who opposes apartheid, Maureen learns how she participated in the system.

July’s People centers on...

(The entire section is 649 words.)