Ja No Man: Growing Up White In Apartheid Era South Africa

"Boet,"said Kevin, "there’s a jazz somewhere down by the assembly hall where okes can do what they smaak, and I hear from reliable sources that it’s lekker down there."

Like most children of the 1970s and 1980s, Richard Poplak grew up obsessed with pop culture. Watching The Cosby Show, listening to Guns N’Roses, and quoting lines from Mad Max movies were part of his everyday life. But in Richard’s country, South Africa, censorship in the newspapers, military training at school, and different rules for different races were also just a part of everyday life. It was, as Richard says, "a different kind of normal."

Ja, No, Man articulates what it was like to live through Apartheid as a white, Jewish boy in suburban Johannesburg. Told with extraordinary humour and self-awareness, Richard’s story brings his gradual understanding of the difference between his country and the rest of the world vividly to life. A startlingly original memoir that veers sharply from the quotidian to the bizarre and back again, Ja, No, Man is an enlightening, darkly hilarious, and, at times, disturbing read.

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Trinette (Toronto, ON, Canada) · ★★★☆☆ · April 23, 2014
Very insightful. Felt a bit like a rant. ...more
By Alexis (Canada) · ★★★★☆ · October 11, 2009
An extremely interesting look at what it was like to grow up as a white child in apartheid era South Africa. Poplak looks at the effects of institutionalized racism on some of his relationships and his understanding of pop culture, as well as some of the weird social customs that occurred during... ...more
By Lesley (Johannesburg, 06, South Africa) · ★★★☆☆ · July 12, 2013
Found it a bit pedestrian after the Spud books by John van Riet. While set in a different era, I found the memoirs rambling at times and the characters sad. It reminded me of my past. An era where children had power over other South Africans. I just abandoned it. ...more
By Tim (Port Elizabeth, South Africa) · ★★☆☆☆ · May 15, 2012
I never finished this book. After books like Mukiwa, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, and My Traitors Heart, well, most of our stories as white kids growing up under Apartheid will seem dull. Which this was. ...more