The Eternal Audience of One

Scout: Gallery. Aug. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9781982164423. $28. F
DEBUT What is home for a Rwandan refugee who’s living in Namibia while studying in South Africa? Séraphin Turihamwe, a young man searching for his authentic identity in this consequential coming-of-age novel, may be the most arresting fictional character readers will meet this year. Plagued by the expectations of his loving but intrusive family, aspiring writer Séraphin escapes the boredom of Windhoek for college in Cape Town, where he feels that he can breathe freely. Though he excels in his studies and acquires an eclectic posse of friends, he resents the remnants of apartheid’s caste system, the daily onslaught of microaggressions that his lighter-skinned classmates blithely ignore. As the students compete for grades, girls, and standing among their peers, they ride a roller-coaster of emotions, from hilarity and fearfulness to love and anger to forgiveness and understanding. Yet it is the immigrant’s search for a spiritual and physical home that drives Séraphin’s romantic entanglements and his progression toward the law degree he never aspired to that imbues this poignant novel with such heart.
VERDICT Another sparkling new talent emanating from the African continent, Rwandan Namibian Ngamije has been honored with the 2021 Regional Commonwealth Short Story Prize. With the broad release of this 2019 debut novel, he can now be embraced by the wider audience he so deserves.
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