The stories in Children of a Bitter Harvest document moments in the lives of children who worked in the heart of South Africa's wine industry between 1996 and 2010, as framed by the uprisings on farms at the start of 2013. The book is made up of over 100 interconnected flashes, or fragments of stories, taken from the lives of farm workers, farmers, child workers, human rights lawyers, and ordinary people affected by the agricultural industry in the Western Cape. The children in the book are longer children; they are young adults in a new South Africa that offers them certain freedoms to overcome the shackles of race and class domination. However, without the kind of radical ecomic and social restructuring that would make this possible, all of the children represented in the book remain extremely poor adults. The author documents how, for these children, their child labour of the 1990s inevitably gave way to adult labour and powerfully demonstrates that the breath between childhood and adulthood is as tender as it is tenuous. We are a nation that has managed to end the brutality of apartheid, but we are a nation that has yet to replace brutality itself.
Susan Levine is a senior lecturer in the School of Gender and African Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Cape Town. She has written extensively on the political economy of children's work in South Africa's wine industry. Her current research focuses on children's subjective experiences of living with infectious illness in sub-Saharan Africa. The recipient of a Distinguished Teacher's Award in 2011, Dr Levine is renowned for her experimental pedagogy in teaching medical anthropology.