Once known as the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana gained independence in 1966 and has held democratic elections since then, making it Africa's oldest continuous multiparty democracy. Botswana is also the world's top producer of diamonds and has seen steady economic growth in recent years. Home to the Kalahari desert that is populated by Bushman hunter-gatherers, much of Botswana is sparsely populated due to the harsh, arid environment.
Despite its political and economic stability, Botswana continues to struggle with containing the spread of HIV-Aids amongst the population. The terrible effects of the disease -- and the fight against it -- is documented by Unity Dow and Max Essex in Saturday Is For Funerals. Unity Dow is Botswana's first female High Court judge and has written five novels that deal with Botswana's social and cultural struggles between traditional and Western values.
American novelist Norman Rush worked for the Peace Corps in Botswana; like Dow's works, his novels are insightful reflections on the Western presence in contemporary southern Africa and its effect on its cultures and peoples.South African writer Bessie Head fled to Botswana from South Africa's apartheid regime in 1964; she settled in Serowe and is considered one of Botswana's most influential writers.