Book that changed my life: My Traitor’s Heart, by Rian Malan.
This is the book that made me realize what it takes to write honestly. Malan’s a traitor to his family because they were a part of every turning point in South African history, including the creation of Apartheid. So by telling the story of his family, Malan tells the story of his country, and by telling the story of his country, he basically tells the story of the world. It’s the story of racial brutality. Of blood. What I admire most about the book is that there aren’t any good guys in it. It’s about black and white people, but there is no black and white, just like life. The book ends with Creina Alcock, a white woman who surrendered all her privilege to live as a Zulu. After a faction of these Zulus murder her husband, the kids they'd adopted and raised rob her of everything. They pistol-whip her so hard that she almost goes blind.
You think she’d be bitter, but she’s not. At the very end of the book she tells Malan, “Love is worth nothing until it has been tested by its own defeat. The only thing you can do is love, because it is the only thing that leaves light inside you, instead of the total, obliterating darkness.”
For ten years now I’ve thought about that line, and this book.