The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa's Racial Reckoning (Hardcover)
A dozen years in the making, The Inheritors weaves together the stories of three ordinary South Africans over five tumultuous decades in a sweeping and exquisite look at what really happens when a country resolves to end white supremacy.
Dipuo grew up on the south side of a mine dump that segregated Johannesburg’s black townships from the white-only city. Some nights, she hiked to the top. To a South African teenager in the 1980s—even an anti-apartheid activist like Dipuo—the divide that separated her from the glittering lights on the other side appeared eternal. But in 1994, the world’s last explicit racial segregationist regime collapsed to make way for something unprecedented.
With penetrating psychological insight, intimate reporting, and bewitching prose, The Inheritors tells the story of a country in the throes of a great reckoning. Through the lives of Dipuo, her daughter Malaika, and Christo—one of the last white South Africans drafted to fight for the apartheid regime—award-winning journalist Eve Fairbanks probes what happens when people once locked into certain kinds of power relations find their status shifting. Observing subtle truths about race and power that extend well beyond national borders, she explores questions that preoccupy so many of us today: How can we let go of our pasts, as individuals and as countries? How should historical debts be paid? And how can a person live an honorable life in a society that—for better or worse—they no longer recognize?
About the Author
Eve Fairbanks writes about change: in cities, countries, landscapes, morals, values, and our ideas of ourselves. A former political writer for The New Republic, her essays and reportage have been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among other outlets. Born in Virginia, she now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Inheritors is her debut.
“Easily the most compelling new nonfiction book I’ve read in years. The Inheritors is not just a spellbinding, beautifully written story about apartheid South Africa, but also an augury for America today.”
—Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
“Eve Fairbanks writes with a rare combination of fearless psychological insight and political intelligence. This is a tremendous book: utterly absorbing, masterfully observed, and urgently thought-provoking. This chronicle of South Africans living in the riptides of history holds up a mirror to us all.”
—Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
“The Inheritors does the brutal and scintillating work of asking and answering the question of how truly lasting is liberation, inviting us into the interior lives of four of the most complicated and complicating characters I’ve read this century. Bookmaking like this is a rigorous feat of wonder, love and risk.”
—Kiese Laymon, award-winning author of Heavy
“Many times while reading this book you will stop, shiver, shake your head, and sigh. Lyrical, deep, chilling, and prescient, it’s a book we will be talking about for years to come.”
—Justice Malala, author of the #1 South African bestseller We Have Now Begun Our Descent
“Eve Fairbanks brings post-apartheid South Africa to rich, brilliant, witty, tragic, and humane life as only a wonderfully gifted writer who has lived her subject can.”
—George Packer, author of The Unwinding, winner of the National Book Award
“A brilliantly reported and deeply felt account of contemporary South Africa, written with a sharp eye for ironies and contradictions and the disturbing implications those may have for today’s America.”
—Francis Fukuyama, award-winning author of The End of History and the Last Man
“[A] searching debut… Fairbanks’s vivid reportage depicts a South Africa awash in racial unease and false consciousness… Distinguished by its sympathetic yet clear-eyed viewpoint, this vital study lays bare the complex, agonizing predicaments that flow from South Africa’s tragic past.”
—Publisher Weekly (starred review)
“A sensitive, often engrossing portrait of the nation during and after apartheid... [R]eaders won’t soon forget Dipuo and Malaika.”