We Are Not Such Things: The Murder of a Young American, a South African Township, and the Search for Truth and Reconciliation by Justine van der Leun
English | 2016 | ISBN: 0812994507 | 544 pages | EPUB | 12 MB
The story of Amy Biehl is well known in South Africa: The twenty-six-year-old white American Fulbright scholar was brutally murdered on August 25, 1993, during the final, fiery days of apartheid by a mob of young black men in a township outside Cape Town. Her parents’ forgiveness of two of her killers became a symbol of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa. Justine van der Leun decided to introduce the story to an American audience. But as she delved into the case, the prevailing narrative started to unravel. Why didn’t the eyewitness reports agree on who killed Amy Biehl? Were the men convicted of the murder actually responsible for her death? And then van der Leun stumbled upon another brutal crime committed on the same day, in the very same area. The true story of Amy Biehl’s death, it turned out, was not only a story of forgiveness but a reflection of the complicated history of a troubled country.
We Are Not Such Things is the result of van der Leun’s four-year investigation into this strange, knotted tale of injustice, violence, and compassion. The bizarre twists and turns of this case and its aftermath—and the story that emerges of what happened on that fateful day in 1993 and in the decades that followed—come together in an unsparing account of life in South Africa today. Van der Leun immerses herself in the lives of her subjects and paints a stark, moving portrait of a township and its residents. We come to understand that the issues at the heart of her investigation are universal in scope and powerful in resonance. We Are Not Such Things reveals how reconciliation is impossible without an acknowledgment of the past, a lesson as relevant to America today as to a South Africa still struggling with the long shadow of its history.
Praise for We Are Not Such Things
“This suspenseful and engrossing story calls into question the simplicities people yearn for when justice is sought for a vicious crime. Justine van der Leun shows how a powerful desire for reconciliation can in fact obscure the truth, a truth we need in order to establish the equity and justice that all people deserve.”—Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black
“What an achievement! This absorbing account of the pursuit of the truth about an infamous and symbolic crime is consummate in its reach and penetration.”—Norman Rush, author of Mating
“This is a murder story told with the dramatic tension of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and the precision of the very best nonfiction reporting. Each page bursts with fresh insights into the contradictions of modern-day South Africa as well as the elusiveness of finding the absolute truth.”—Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy and Logavina Street
“A fascinating, clear-eyed journey into the disheartening political reality of contemporary South Africa.”—Jill Leovy, author of GhettosideNitroFlare