Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Sheila Gordon’s Waiting for the Rain is a realistic account of the doomed friendship of Frikkie and Tengo in South Africa in the turbulent decade of the 1980’s when apartheid, the long-standing forced separation of the races maintained by the reactionary government of P. W. Botha, controls the lives of both black and white people. Activist Nelson Mandela has not yet been released from prison, where he has languished for more than twenty years because of his founding of the African National Congress (ANC), which in Mandela’s mind was to be a nonviolent resistance to an unjust authoritarian regime. Apartheid, with its cruel, inhumane policies, has kept black people in inferior positions, denying them decent jobs, education, and living conditions.

Apartheid also tears apart the close friendship of Frikkie and Tengo, who have played together since they were three years old. At the beginning of Gordon’s novel, they are ten years old. It is then that Tengo notices the differences between them. Why are his mother and father called by their first names when Frikkie’s uncle and aunt are called “Master” and “Mistress”? Why do all the black farm workers live in the kraal, a dusty, stench-filled area of small mud huts with no running water and no trees, while Oom Koos and Tant Sannie live in the long white farmhouse surrounded by green grass, jacaranda trees, and flower beds? Why does his family eat only mielie (corn meal) porridge when...

(The entire section is 519 words.)