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Graphic fiction about growing up mixed-race in South Africa

Posted on February 04, 2021

Detail of Caitlin's face, "Coloureds"

(The passage below is excerpted from "Talking About Race with Racially Diverse Students: 7 Short Readings to Get the Conversation Started," published in the fall 2020 edition of the newsletter of the International Council of English Teachers.)

The story series "Coloureds" depicts life in a South African township, and was written, illustrated, and translated by Nathan and Andre Trantraal, a pair of comics creators also known as "The Trantraal Brothers." (The series title refers to a term for South Africans of mixed heritage, and we recommend reading the stories alongside an interview in which Nathan and Andre Trantraal discuss their understanding of the term.)

The first two stories in Coloureds, narrated by a young girl named Caitlin, expose the real-life effects of structural racism: the hunger and poverty with which her family struggles is a direct result of the South African government's longstanding policies of apartheid. Those policies are now gone, but their legacy remains. Indeed, a 2019 article in Time magazine posits South Africa as a leading example of the worldwide increase in economic inequality.

In talking about this story with students, you might connect it to these larger issues through the lens of articles like the ones above and the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero Hunger) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities.) Or, you might invite students to conduct their own research into the root causes of the conditions in the stories.

If you have additional time, the third story in Coloureds, "Dogville," is also well-worth reading: written from the perspective on Caitlin's younger brother Nigel, it alludes to the psychological toll of structural racism, which can create a cycle of abuse and deep pain for a community's most vulnerable members.

For the full article, which discusses 6 other short global readings on race, click here and go to page 14.

Thanks to our friends at ICTE for allowing us to publish this excerpt!