Naidoo, B. (2001). Out of Bounds: Seven stories of conflict and hope. London: Puffin Books.
Organized chronologically, these seven short stories explore different events and conditions of Apartheid through South African children’s perspectives. With varying degrees of hope, the protagonists face difficult choices and risk when deciding on what they believe about Apartheid depending on their various class and racial backgrounds. By remaining focused on issues among family members, friends and school all of the stories remain child-centric. Despite this, students may have some difficulty understanding the historical contexts of the stories (despite the presence of a timeline at the end) without the assistance of a teacher.
While Naidoo provides a complicated and emotionally striking view of apartheid, one perspective is missing—that of someone who supported the laws. While a few secondary characters in several of the stories are supporters, most of them are placed in the roles of villains. I think showing the justifications that those in power tend to make to maintain their power would have been a complicating view to trigger discussion and a challenge to Naidoo as a writer.
Activities to do with the book:
After going through the stories him or herself, a teacher could decide to read one or two aloud to children. (My personal recommendation is to start with “The Playground” since it is closest to the experience of school desegregation in the United States and could provoke more immediate conversation)
This book would be good to use alongside lessons on the history and evolution of Apartheid.
Students could also create drawings in response to some of the images and scenes described in the book, or could examine American art for comparable images. (A good starting point would be Norman Rockwell’s “A Problem We All Live With”)
“The oppressors opened their prison doors and sat down with those they had oppressed…people they had locked behind bars for years or driven out of the country. They exchanged words instead of bullets” (xiii, introduction).
“The year I turned ten, apartheid gripped me fully by the throat for the first time. Of course its fingers had been there all along, but I had been too busy to take much notice” (p. 18).
“When I was six, policemen snatched Daddy away in the middle of the night. They came to our house with banging, thumping, and shouting. Their flashlights swooped over the garden through the dark” (p. 50).