Fox Benwell delivers a harrowing and beautifully written novel that explores the relationship between two girls obsessed with music, the practice of corrective rape, and the risks and power of using your voice.
South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…
Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.
It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.
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I want to start off by saying that there’s no way in heck this review will do justice to this amazing, magnificent, beautiful book. So go buy it now. Even before you read this review because that’s how amazing it is. Trust me on this. You need this book in your life.
Kaleidoscope Song is the story of Neo. Throughout the book we can see Neo grow from this shy girl who’s afraid of letting her true self shine to this strong young woman who stands up for who she is and what she believes in.
She’s a strong and determined and hardworking and persistent and such a caring character. She’s a South African young woman trying to find her place in the world.
Neo has a passion for music like you’ve never seen before. No one gets it though. Her parents keep telling her that music will get her nowhere. That she should forget about that childish dream, she should study and find a man. A man she’ll marry and have children with.
And then there’s this beautiful woman, Tale. She gets IT. She gets HER. Neo fell in love with her song and there’s no way she’s ever going to be able to let go her go. They create the most beautiful song together.
But life as a black lesbian woman in Khayelitsha, Cape Town is not easy.
Just when everything seems to be going fine and Neo finally feels like she’s found her place in the world, the cruel side of the world makes an appearance and tries to destroy everything she loves.
“You shouldn’t have to survive. No one should. You shouldn’t have to fight, to fear, to lose.
But the only, only way we stop those bastards is by speaking out. You have to tell.”
Neo’s story might be fictional but there is nothing but the truth in Fox Benwell’s words. Even though she is a fictional character, there are actually a lot of Neos out there fighting for their rights and fighting to survive when they shouldn’t have to. They should be able to live their lives like any other human in this Earth. Some might have it easier than her, some have gone through horrible things we can’t even begin to imagine.
Kaleidoscope Song is a small contribution to this cause (that shouldn’t even be a cause). It creates awareness. It makes you think and want to help and it makes you want to educate yourself.
“Music’s in the being there and being part of it, and the only way we make it through this life is if we hold our nerves and sing.”
I’m so thankful to Fox Benwell for writing this book and for not keeping quiet. For using his magnificent talent with words and giving us a piece of his mind.
I will forever carry Neo’s story inside my heart and I cross my heart I will never keep quiet.
I honestly cannot recommend this book enough. If Benwell’s words resonated so much with me (a straight Mexican young woman), imagine how much it would mean to a lesbian or anyone from the LGBTQIA+ community.
PLEASE pick up this book as soon as you can.