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The Inheritors

An Intimate Portrait of South Africa's Racial Reckoning


A decade in the making, The Inheritors tracks three ordinary South Africans over fifty years in a sweeping, exquisitely written look at what really happens after a country resolves to end white supremacy.

Dipuo grew up on the south side of the mine dump that separated Johannesburg’s Black townships from the white-only city. Some nights she hiked to the top. On the other side were glittering lights as well as, she knew, prejudice and hubris; on her side there was dust but also love. To a South African teenager in the 1980seven an anti-apartheid activist like Dipuothe divide appeared eternal. But then, in 1994, the world’s last explicitly segregationist regime collapsed to make way for something unprecedented. The end of apartheid carried South Africa past a point the United States and Europe are still moving slowly towards: the ascent to political, cultural, and intellectual power of members of the demographic groups the countries once colonized or enslaved.

The Inheritors weaves together the stories of Dipuo, her daughter Malaika, and Christoone of the last White South Africans drafted to fight for apartheid as the system crumbled around himto consider what happens when people once locked into certain kinds of power relations find their status shifting. With intimate reporting, keen psychological insight, and luminous prose, the book probes how everyday people grapple with great social change, exploring questions that preoccupy not only South Africans but so many of us today: How can we let go of our individual and national pasts? How should old debts be paid? How much sympathy do we owe one another? And how does a person live an honorable life in a society thatfor both better and worsethey no longer recognize?

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 are published in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Guardian, among other outlets. The recipient of a True Story Award and a finalist for the Livingston Award, her work has been funded by the Fulbright Program, the Institute of Current World Affairs, the Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the Writing Invisibility Project at the Max Planck Institute. 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 and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

“A brilliantly reported and deeply felt account of contemporary South Africa, written with a sharp eye for the ironies and contradictions of the society and the disturbing implications it may have for today’s America.”
Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man