Guest Post – Author J.L. Powers This and That with Khosi Zulu

This and That with Khosi Zulu

by J.L. Powers

In my recent novel This Thing Called the Future, my main character Khosi Zulu is young, black, and poor. She lives in South Africa in 2011. Her world is both magical and modern. Here is what she might think if confronted with certain choices:

rice or potatoes Rice! It’s a more expensive food and a luxury. But usually Zulus eat phutu—a corn meal mush that they mix with beans and a little meat.

spiders or ants Khosi would choose spiders. Early in the book, Khosi meets a witch and she claims that she feels like “an ant drawn to sugar” when the witch calls to her. She would prefer the autonomy of spiders and the ability to resist the witch’s supernatural pull.

frogs or snakes Snakes! Certain snakes represent the ancestors and let Khosi know that her grandparents and great-grandparents (the people who have passed to the other side) are right there, protecting and guiding her. Those snakes are a symbol of good luck.

apples or oranges Oranges, for no reason other than that Khosi likes the taste better.

dogs or cats Dogs are nice because they can help protect the house from thieves, who are all too common in South African townships. But they also prevent people from visiting and hospitality is important in Zulu culture. For Khosi’s family, they want their house to be open and available to their neighbors and friends. So she would choose a cat.

grass or trees Both! Traditional Zulu healers use both grass and trees to make medicines to heal people and Khosi is fascinated with traditional medicine.

cars or planes Cars. Khosi can’t imagine actually taking a plane though she jokes, when she sees her crush Little Man, that her heart took a fast plane to Mozambique.

shaken or stirred Khosi has probably seen James Bond movies on television so she would be familiar with the phrase. But she comes from a conservative, religious African family and alcohol is a big no-no. Besides, a drunken man with shape-shifting powers is stalking her and the drunker he gets, the more dangerous he gets. Alcohol scares her, but only because her experiences with it are all negative.

Abercrombie or Neiman Marcus There are malls all over South Africa but brands are different than in the U.S. South Africa actually has real fashion acumen that is admired in Europe. Khosi, unfortunately, can’t afford the malls in South Africa—much less Abercrombie or Neiman Marcus. So she wouldn’t choose either.

Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny These are European concepts. Khosi would be more likely to ask, “Tokoloshe or impundulu?”

The tokoloshe is a small monkey-like creature (or dwarf-like—it can appear in different ways to different people) and it wreaks havoc on people’s lives, playing pranks that can often be dangerous and lead to somebody’s death. Like ghost stories told in the U.S., South Africans will often relate tales of the tokoloshe. They can be hilarious or very scary.

The impundulu, or lightening bird, is a man-size bird that can appear with lightening. It is sent by a witch and is intent on killing somebody in the house where it appears. (Sometimes Zulu witches can control lightening itself and send lightening to kill someone—then they don’t bother with the bird. But if you see the bird, you better go find help from a sangoma immediately, who can help you remove the witch’s curse.)

peanut butter or jelly Jelly. It’s a lot more common than peanut butter in South African townships.

running or jumping Jumping—which is more like dancing—and Khosi loves to dance.

rainy or shiny Rainy. A rainy day means staying in and watching television with Khosi’s little sister and grandmother.

pictures or words Pictures. Khosi has dreams and visions throughout This Thing Called the Future, which guide her towards the answers she needs to solve her problems.

solids or liquids Liquids. The medicine Khosi takes when she undergoes her spiritual purification are all liquids—liquids with red, black, and white powers. Black and red muthi (medicine) removes evil from the body. White medicine replaces the emptiness with purity.


You can learn more about J. L. Powers and her book, This Thing Called the Future by visiting her website or by following her on Twitter

This Thing Called the Future is out now!  You can purchase it by clicking the Amazon widget below

Thank you to {Teen} Book Scene for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

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