By Clarie Gor
Title: Rachel’s Blue
Author: Zakes Mda
Publisher: NB publishers Limited
“She wonders why this became her story and not Jason’s, why it was the victim’s story and not hers.”
Rachel’s Blue is a story that explores what happens when a rapist seeks custody over a child conceived through rape.
It opens with Jason, walking through a hippie town-square where he ends up spotting Rachel, a former classmate and love-interest.
It is set in a small town. This as you well know means that word travels around fast. But more than that, the people face problems that are more often than not, a consequence of the government’s ignorance and greed. This means that the people have to fight for themselves through small activist groups. In Appalachia, the people worry about fracking. It is during one of this meetings that Rachel runs into Skye, a renowned anti-fracking activist.
Rachel and Skye’s relationships buds into a quick romance which is a thorn on Jason’s side who believes he has fallen madly in love with Rachel upon reconnecting with her. For a while Jason can do nothing about his feelings but things escalate when Rachel ends up having sex and Jason who has been waiting for Rachel to finally confess his feelings, witnesses the whole thing.
From then on, he is obsessed with Rachel and after getting drunk at a party and sharing a ride with Rachel, he rapes her. Rachel conceives and is in denial for a while but after getting professional help, he decides to keep the baby. She gives birth to a boy named Blue that she adores.
Even though Rachel pressed rape charges against Jason, he is only convicted of assault and serves a few months in jail. Jason gets saved and now claiming that he is a changed man, files a custody claim. What ensues is a court battle that Rachel is poised to lose due to her sexual history and mental illness.
In the end, Rachel has to flee to a state that guarantees protection of rape victims and denies rapists parental rights.
This story explores a lot of themes. Most prominently is society’s view of rape. Most people still do not understand rape as a simple lack of consent. Rachel isn’t believed when she says Jason raped her because she was sexually active before then. Even Jason doesn’t believe that he raped Rachel because he believed he loved her and Rachel had somehow led her on by being his friend. Never mind that he battered her on top of the rape. People, including Rachel’s grandmother, also struggle to perceive Jason as a rapist because he is a good guy who regularly helped the elderly in the community.
For me, it was an elaborate portrayal of the “good guys-get friend zoned” argument: the idea that