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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

South African Apartheid

Bigotry No Joke


Shedding a Bigoted View of the World

Growing up in South Arica, the laws of apartheid controlled every aspect of my life. Although my friends and I were too young to understand the dire consequences of apartheid, we knew something was wrong—very wrong. As a way of dealing with our discomfort, we joked about the methods the government used to classify people according to race. We pushed rulers or pencils into our hair to see if they would stay in. I sported a mane of long, fine auburn hair, so I was “safe.” But if you had thick curly hair, the ruler didn't fallout, "proving" that you were not white—maybe. Little wonder we were acutely embarrassed when the bus drivers asked our olive-skinned, frizzy-haired friend if he was qualified to ride on the “whites only” bus. Another joke, circulating among my friends, was that ignorant censors had banned the novel, Black Beauty, assuming that the title referred to a black woman. As I recalled these incidents in my memoir, In the Garden of Apartheid: Growing Up White in Segregated South Africa, I saw more clearly than ever that bigotry is nothing to joke about.

In my historical novel The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll, I write about the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and their struggle against prejudice.

Can you tell I have a 1960s bouffant hair-style?
Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid