Case, D. (1995). 92 Queens Road. New York: Rarrar, Straus and Giroux.
Set in the 1960s during apartheid, 92 Queens Road shows the experiences of young Kathy and her family under the system of laws. Throughout the text, six-year-old Kathy searches for her place in her young country and comes to grips with her lack of a father and status as a “coloured” person.
Due to the language usage and subtle humor, this book feels very much like a memoir and can easily be shared with an American audience.
It considers issues of shame. Kathy struggles with her skin color and her illegitimacy. By sympathizing with Kathy in the text, a teacher can help to encourage an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance. There’s also a homosexual supporting character who is fairly represented.
When sharing this book, a teacher could emphasize the fact that categories are arbitrary. Some of Kathy’s relatives appeal and are reclassified as whites by the government, while other people with lighter skin still remain labeled as “coloured.” A teacher could draw out the complications of categorizing and attempting to organize citizens in such a way.
Activities to do with the book:
Since Kathy spends some time describing her excitement over South Africa’s new currency in the novel, a teacher could do a lesson on the different currencies of various countries. Students could research the various historical figures and symbols shown on the different countries’ bills and coins to get insights into each country’s history.
A teacher can also trigger discussions the history of South Africa, racism, discrimination and power relations. It would probably be helpful to place the story in its historic period in the 1960s. The text helps do this with its references to The Beatles, Elvis and other familiar figures.
Also a teacher could demonstrate how racism goes unchallenged by those who “are just doing their jobs.” After emphasizing one such scene from the text, a teacher could break up a class into small groups and they could dramatize the scene than consider alternate resolutions.
“Far beyond the cranes and the late-March misty haze, I knew that somewhere on that very sea the SA Vaal sailed forth with Uncle Reg aboard, playing the part he had to play in order for the ship to accomplish her mission. I felt as long as I could see the sea, Uncle Reg would be close to me” (p. 18).
“This is not our country. We have no say here. We don’t belong here. This is not our country” (p. 49).