Compiled by the FunDza Literacy Trust, Hero Within brings together the voices of a range of South Africans, from aspiring young writers to published authors. These stories, blogs and poems are also available on FunDza’s mobisite, fundza.mobi.
The challenges faced by young people in South Africa form a common thread throughout the book, which covers topics ranging from catcalling, to “black tax” and the gender divide. Crucially, these powerful narratives give voice to the voiceless, providing hope and resistance. This is clearly seen in “Hero Within”, the story of a courageous schoolgirl who stands up against her abuser.
Notable contributors include Sifiso Mzobe, whose “Faith” explores how religion can cause strife in a family, and Michelle Faure, whose “Love Aflame” tells the love story of two young girls who must contend with both society’s prejudices and the Knysna fires.
Some of the most moving pieces in the book are courtesy of the winners of a writing competition run by FunDza in 2018. The topic was “My home, my hood” and young writers could either focus on feeling safe and a sense of belonging in their communities, or a feeling of danger or being an outsider. Of the nearly 200 pieces submitted, fewer than 10 were about a positive experience.
As Mignon Hardie, director of FunDza, wrote: “We could see from the competition entries that for the entrants, home is frequently a place of isolation, danger and violence. The ‘hood’ is often a space ruled by predators and gangsters. Young people are growing up afraid and stressed in their communities. Some of these beautifully rendered stories reduced me to tears at times, but they also offered some hope: vividly portraying the resilience and strength of so many young people growing up in challenging circumstances.”
There is no doubt that this is a serious and sobering book. But it is also one of hope, as writers develop purpose and meaning – and means of resistance – as they explore the injustices around them. We hope that Hero Within will both show readers that they are not alone in their experiences and act as a call to us all to counter the violence and inequality that continues to stunt the lives of many young South Africans.