Book Review: Eusebius McKaiser’s A Bantu in My Bathroom

The foreword did a great job in preparing me for what “A Bantu in My Bathroom” is all about. Jonathan Jansen was basically saying to me, “Nomfundo, brace yourself…hold onto your seat; you’re about to get into something that will make you cringe, get uncomfortable and have you deep in thought”. Oh boy! What a rollercoaster ride it was; there were parts of the book that made me excited, feel bad, intrigued, scared as if I was going to wet my pants and laughing. The book is eye opening in the sense that it made me realize the things that we as South Africans are uncomfortable with, but furthermore, it showed me that we have a long way to go.

When Eusebius wrote this book he knew very well what he was getting himself into. In his introduction he says that “writing necessarily means putting a part of your private self out there for affirmation, criticism, engagement, ridicule,judgement.” I strongly agree with this statement; his thoughts are out there for all to consume and judge.

I enjoyed reading the book despite the fact that I had to refer to my dictionary several times; something which makes sense given the fact that Eusebius is a political and social analyst, a talk show host, a debating champion and a columnist.

The book has three sections, namely race, sexuality and culture. In the first essay, which is part of the race section, Eusebuis discusses an advert he came across in The Star while looking for accommodation where a lady we will refer to as Sally, was looking for a white person to share her home with. Out of curiosity Eusebius called her, and to his suprise, she was rather friendly and jolly; surely racists aren’t meant to be like this, they’re supposed to be angry people with Afrikaans accents. That is the stereotype one may think of but the lady went on to justify the reasons why she was looking for a white person and also that she did not see any problem with her advert. On his talk show, Eusebius discussed this incident and got fascinating arguments from the listeners which shed light on how we feel and respond to issues of race. The title of the book is based on this essay.

In this collection of essays Eusebuis kept me constantly engaging; the more I read it, the more I found myself deep in thought, reflecting on how I feel and questioning myself on how I respond to people around me especially when it comes to issues such as homophobia. Now that is one topic that makes people very uncomfortable and no amount of prayer or forcing people to date the opposite sex will convince a gay person to change. I was really touched when I read the essay titled “Don’t you just wanna to try, my son? With a woman?” Wherein he discusses his experience as a gay guy coming out to his father. While his father was disappointed initially, their relationship has improved over the years; his father has now accepted his sexual orientation. This essay shows the things that gay people have to deal with in our society as they are discriminated against and their families could even turn against them.

The essay I enjoyed the most is the last one titled, The Funny Revolution. This covers the reasons why comedy is thriving in South Africa. I personally love laughing and I enjoy comedy, so this essay made me laugh as I found myself nodding and agreeing to the issues discussed. “Laughing is a coping mechanism for us; all of us enjoy seeing ourselves narrated in the arts; and comedy allows us, being a rainbow nation obsessed, to laugh in national unison.”

I recommend the book to anyone interested in reading about South Africa and how we as a country address questions of race, sexuality and culture. Some questions that are covered in the book are: Can Blacks be racist? Why is our society so violent? A well-written book, it is bound to keep you engaged.

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