In my quest for more blog material, I stumbled on an Instagram photo posted by @thediaryofaclassteacher with a guy sitting on a curb in South Africa, a stack of books at his side, and the caption claiming that he reviews books for anyone passing by who’s interested. I, a born-and-bred internet skeptic, thought to myself, “nahhhh this photo’s either staged or misrepresented or something“. You should always be wary of something you read on the internet, but maybe not in this case.
Meet Philani Dladla, resident of Johannesburg, South Africa. Formerly homeless, formerly addicted to drugs, and survivor of an extremely difficult life on the streets, he decided he needed to save himself and make something of himself — and he did that through books. Refusing to beg and with a book collection he had been carefully creating and reading since the age of 12, Philani created a mobile library. Not only lending books, he started reading and reviewing his books, using those reviews to entice motorists along Empire Road in Johannesburg.
Philani’s story made it out of Johnnesburg thanks to a documentary filmmaker Tebogo Malope, who interviewed Philani and posted the interview video online. Viral videos being what they are, his story about surviving a life of homelessness and drug addiction through his love of books spread quickly.
He published an autobiography in 2015 called “The Pavement Bookworm”, and many people call it extremely inspiring. I’ve added it to my To Read list and hope to get to it soon. He also has a charity page up where he lists some of his book reviews, and raises money and book donations to help pay it forward to other struggling adults and children in South Africa.
SA People News: The unlikely story of The Pavement Bookworm