Book Reviews: Walking And Winging It, Or The Curse Of Growing Pains

October 2, 2022


The Curse of Teko Modise by Nikolaos Kirkinis

Walking In Grace by Dalene Reyburn

The Black Consciousness Reader – A Compilation

Tell Me Your Story by Ruda Landman

Growing Pains by Dr Mike Shooter

Winging It by Joanne Jowell

The Curse of Teko Modise is the life story of one of South Africa’s great football players. It tells how Teko struggled through a cruel childhood. Abandoned by his mother, kicked out of the house by his father, living on the street, scavenging dustbins for food, this tiny youngster grew up to be a football giant and a legend. He passed through the stages, from street-ball kicking, township football and professional league lower rank clubs to top-ranking Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns, and captained Bafana Bafana before playing for Cape Town City. Players are often given nicknames that spell out their style of playing. Teko is known as The General, controlling the game from the midfield. The book is also an eye opener for those of us who have adopted cricket and rugby as the national sports. The greatest sporting event in the country is a game played between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. The stadium becomes electrified, the crowd passionate, the emotions stirred, people dressed up with specially made headwear, the atmosphere charged to a high pitch, the great players seen as heroes. This book is also a condensed history of football in our country. Supporters are an integral part of the football story – passionate about quality play, and sometimes becoming violent if their team performs below standard. The media made Teko an exciting news item, permanently on their radar. The story was spread that Teko put a curse on the clubs he played for as these clubs, as a rule, failed to win trophies. Statistics show otherwise. Teko also attracted the attention of strange cults that promised him fortune and good luck. Throughout his football career, Teko’s private life was dominated by his destructive childhood, causing turbulence and instability.  This book made me aware of the rich diversity of South African cultural values. It is a perception-changing book, a good one, and above all, a great read. – DB


Containing a leap year’s worth of short Christian devotions, Walking In Grace, in terms of its design – embossed flowers on the cover and a stereotypically feminine layout – backs up its blurb’s claim that it is written expressly for women readers. However, though that target market will certainly benefit from reading Dalene Reyburn’s thoughts on everything from wisdom to struggles to self-image, it should be noted that the material will almost always be as relatable for men as it is for women, and should not be ignored by the former based only on the marketing. Reyburn’s insights are real, accessible and clearly written. For many readers, her brevity will be appealing, too – each cage contains only a couple of Bible verses, two or three paragraphs fro Reyburn and then a suggestion for a theme on which to pray; just a couple of hundred words at most. A useful, though not profound, resource, and a good gift for a friend or family member requiring some structure in their devotions. – BD


The Black Consciousness Reader, a collection of essays written by eminent scholars, covers contemporary South African history and makes readers aware that Black Consciousness is still an issue in our country, in spite of four black presidents and a majority of black leadership at all levels of government. Black Consciousnessrelates to the historical shackles of colonialism and apartheid suppression that still linger in the mind and still have a dominating influence on economics and relationships. The stories of Steve Biko and Robert Sobukwe, along with many other struggle victims, have left a rift that is not yet closed up. The dignity and integrity of the men and women in the movement, in sharp contrast with the brutal, criminal suppression they endured, is deeply engraved in our democratic society. The movement’s great leaders gave it a dignified appeal, but the fact that an entire population suffered the indignity of suppression is not forgotten. The book would be a good choice as high school study material. It leaves one with many questions about the scourge of racism, the ultimate emancipation of black people, political leadership and the future of a multi-racial society. It is highly recommended reading for those who wish to understand the past and try to get a glimpse of the future. – DB


In Tell Me Your Story, Ruda Landman takes us down memory lane, chatting with people we know, have heard of or should know. One could call these talks interviews, but the style of chat is more conversational – easy and informal, allowing readers to meet people who have something to say about their lives in South Africa.  Brightrock  Insurance commissioned Landman to do this job, donating the royalties to charity. People from all walks of life have their say about their achievement and experience in public life, politics, art, sport, business and science, covering the entire range of human activities. Landman has given us a kaleidoscopic view of outstanding achievers in our society, making me proud to be part of it. – DB


Shooter is a distinguished psychiatrist, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and an engaging writer. Growing Pains is subtitled “Making Sense of Childhood, a Psychiatrist’s Story”. He begins with his own case history, of a dysfunctional home, being expelled from school, job-hopping and finally depression. Yet out of this he emerged as a promising student and eventually a qualified medical psychiatrist. The book is a collection of case studies from his career in the NHS, where he specialised in child psychiatry. Each chapter contains two or three such studies, with discussion of underlying principles and approaches. Shooter did not always conform to the norms and structures of the NHS, but he seems increasingly to have been able to overcome the restraints and to win recognition for his methodologies. There are a number of studies that are heartening, others that make for uncomfortable reading, and still others where we acknowledge with him that the problems seem intractable. At so many points, I felt that what he was describing illuminated areas in my own experience and that I wished I had had his direct input or at least the understanding he brought in retrospect. Shooter has worked in areas of affluence, but more often in areas of poverty. He writes of some deprived homes and children in physical need. Many patients, including family groups, came to see him in consulting rooms. He is not averse to climbing a hill or picking his way through a derelict housing estate. The children he sees present with a wide variety of problems. He clearly does believe in organic “cures” but in listening, teasing out the threads of any situation and counselling, guiding and enabling the care-givers and the child patients. This is a most readable book, full of interest and important for ordinary readers who either are involved in their own families or in working among young people. – RH


Winging It shows a side of Jonathan Kaplan most of us don’t know about. We know him as an outstanding international rugby referee, but Winging It tells the determination and resilience he shows having made up his mind to have a baby after his retirement in his late forties. As a single parent, this was most unusual. The book takes us through a fertility drama that almost failed but in the end gave Jonathan a boy he named Kaleb. The structure of this tale is interesting. We meet Jonathan and Joanne doing the present-day interview and all the major actors give flash-back accounts of the entire fertility drama – Jonathan himself reminiscing, family members, Kim, the Agency organiser, Jacqui the surrogate mother, Dr. H, the medical fertility practitioner, all of them telling us their part in the process. We get to know the religious, legal and financial implications, but the egg donor remains anonymous. Although Jonathan is not an orthodox Jew, he raises his son following strict Jewish rituals, which is interesting for outsiders. This is a good read taking us through all the emotions. Fertility and surrogacy show up as uncertain undertakings. Jonathan winged it to a happy end and a challenging future for him and Kaleb. Well done, ref! – DB