Winner of the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction
A dozen years in the making, The Inheritors weaves together the stories of three ordinary South Africans over five tumultuous decadesin a sweeping and exquisite look at what really happens when a country resolves to end white supremacy.
Dipuo grew up on the south side of a mine dump that segregated Johannesburg’s black townships from the white-only city. Some nights, she hiked to the top. To a South African teenager in the 1980s—even an anti-apartheid activist like Dipuo—the divide that separated her from the glittering lights on the other side appeared eternal. But in 1994, the world’s last explicit racial segregationist regime collapsed to make way for something unprecedented.
With penetrating psychological insight, intimate reporting, and bewitching prose, The Inheritors tells the story of a country in the throes of a great reckoning. Through the lives of Dipuo, her daughter Malaika, and Christo—one of the last white South Africans drafted to fight for the apartheid regime—award-winning journalist Eve Fairbanks probes what happens when people once locked into certain kinds of power relations find their status shifting. Observing subtle truths about race and power that extend well beyond national borders, she explores questions that preoccupy so many of us today: How can we let go of our pasts, as individuals and as countries? How should historical debts be paid? And how can a person live an honorable life in a society that—for better or worse—they no longer recognize?
About the Author
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 have been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among other outlets. Born in Washington, DC, and raised in Virginia, she’s lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, for thirteen years. The Inheritors is her debut.
“Eve Fairbanks writes with a rare combination of fearless psychological insight and political intelligence. This is a tremendous book: utterly absorbing and urgently thought-provoking.” —Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
“Fairbanks’s empathetic, comprehensive reporting shines… providing insight into how ordinary people build lives in the aftermath of political upheaval…. Her curiosity seems boundless... swept up in the rich tapestry of the country and... an abundance of personal memories, fables, speculation and musings.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The Inheritors does the brutal and scintillating work of asking and answering the question of how truly lasting is liberation, inviting us into the interior lives of three of the most complicated and complicating characters I’ve read this century. Bookmaking like this is a rigorous feat of wonder, love and risk.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy, winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal
”The most dynamic storyteller at the most interesting cocktail party could scarcely achieve more than Eve Fairbanks has…. Richly drawn and often moving.” —The Washington Post
“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, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
“Fairbanks’s prose is masterful, and there are passages in the book that sing. It is an ambitious project. Anyone seeking to make sense of South Africa’s messy and complicated post-apartheid journey is a brave soul. And there is plenty of courageous writing in The Inheritors.” —Foreign Policy
“A moving group portrait of disillusion and resilience.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Fairbanks is too good a writer to resort to crude psychologizing, but she repeatedly suggests that there is a terrible price to pay for trying to ignore how people see their own situations… unfailingly empathetic, she draws out tangled emotions with such skill and sensitivity.” —The New York Times (Editor's Choice)
“Eve Fairbanks brings post-apartheid South Africa to rich, brilliant, witty, tragic, and humane life as only a wonderfully gifted writer who has lived her subject can.” —George Packer, author of The Unwinding, winner of the National Book Award
“Many times while reading this book you will stop, shiver, shake your head, and sigh. Lyrical, deep, chilling, and prescient, it’s a book we will be talking about for years to come.” —Justice Malala, author of the #1 South African bestseller We Have Now Begun Our Descent