River Town by Peter Hessler

This semester we will be beginning by taking a look at what is involved in understanding another culture and another country…. starting with a look at the importance of history in understanding a country and its people today.


Our first step was taking a look at an English-speaking country that many students don’t know a lot about: South Africa.  Together we have watched and discussed three films:  Goodbye Bafana, Cry Freedom and Catch a Fire.   Goodbye Bafana is the story of James Gregory, a prison guard who was responsible for the security of Nelson Mandela for many years, and who had the privilege of being an eye-witness and protagonist in his country’s struggle to rise up out of apartheid.    Cry Freedom is the story of a journalist, Donald Woods, who befriended Steve Biko, an activist who was murdered by the South African government. The film documents their friendship, and Donald Woods’ determination to see South Africa change for the better.   The final film, Catch a Fire, is the story of an innocent black man trying to get by despite his country’s turmoil,and who is unjustly accused of being a terrorist.


Below you will find the first two chapters of the book River Town by Peter Hessler, which we will be reading together and discussing in the first semester.  Hessler’s book takes a close look at how a country’s history and land help to shape its people.


River town 01  River town 02  River town 03 River town 04




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