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Summer Edition
Volume 100, Number 1

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Cry, the Beloved Country

Sail into summer reading (continued)

Hope for a broken country

The power of loving relationships in pre-apartheid South Africa

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I first discovered Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country in an African literature class during a semester abroad in my last year at Messiah. While studying at Uganda Christian University, I enrolled in a course taught by a wonderfully quirky Ugandan professor. He enthralled us with his stories, challenged our thinking, and introduced our class to a wide variety of African literature, including Cry, the Beloved Country. Throughout the semester, he helped us to appreciate themes of struggle, reconciliation, and the conflict between past and present.

Reading Cry, the Beloved Country while in Africa brought such themes even more beautifully to life, but I would enthusiastically recommend Paton’s work no matter where in the world you find yourself this summer.     

In this novel, Alan Paton weaves a story of the interactions of people in pre-apartheid South Africa. Paton writes of the frustrations, the fears, the heartache of racism, but ties these intense emotions to pure hope. He does not write of a naïve hope, but rather of an unfailing, powerful hope. This hope has seen pain, suffering, and hatred tear through its country, and yet believes that life can be beautiful again. This hope has seen son turn against father, sister deny sister, and yet does not relinquish the ideas of peace, of unity, of reconciliation. Set against such a backdrop of violence, this hope is all the more inspiring. Paton’s rich dialogue and vivid descriptions bring South Africa and all its struggles of racial reconciliation to life. He focuses on the microcosm of personal relationships within the larger picture of South Africa and he encourages readers that small relationships worked in love can change the broader picture of racism.

I hope that you will delve into Cry, the Beloved Country and consider what it means to practice forgiveness and work for reconciliation in the midst of turmoil.


Erin Black
—Erin Black graduated from Messiah College in 2007 with a B.A. in music. She is currently living in Gallup, New Mexico, where she teaches third grade on the Navajo Nation. The best reading spot she’s ever found was in a frangipani tree at a Brethren In Christ guesthouse in Zambia.
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