In an effort to try to get into Audio books, I crowd sourced the FB group for recommendations, and this had a large number of glowing recommendations. I quite liked it, and it helped that I had a three hour drive to complete when I started the book. I still struggle a bit with focusing on audiobooks when not in a car so I may have missed a few minor details but overall, I really enjoyed this book.
I remember vaguely learning about South Africa and Apartheid in high school since we read Cry, the Beloved Country, but I feel like so much context was missing. I checked and Cry, the Beloved Country was published the same year Apartheid started but this memoir still helped even explain the few vague things I remember about that novel so much, even just with how and where people were forced to live, and what Homelands were. Having grown up learning the history of US Civil Rights and concepts such as separate but equal, I guess I always just thought that Apartheid was similar in its approach and how it separated people. I didn’t realize just how much more physically separated everything was due to forcing most blacks into Homelands with requirements for work permits for non-whites to even be able to enter cities.
In addition to providing a great education and context on the history of South Africa and its effects on a personal level, he also talks about cultural nuisances (witch craft and distrust of cats among those) and balances the comedy and pathos well. He hints/foreshadows family tragedy early in the memoir, so as the book went on, I kept wondering when certain things might happen. Due to his background as a mixed child (distinct from colored as a category), he has a weird standing in his family, with one story talking about how his grandmother is afraid to punish a “white” child even when he acted up more than any of his cousins. The racial divides were so deeply ingrained and enforced that it affected even how families interacted with each other.
As a result of his upbringing, and the fact that Noah didn’t choose the easy route of simply associating with the people he “should have” associated with based on tradition and color, he has much broader insights than might otherwise be expected in a country where people were forced into boxes and segregated based on skin tone. His appearance opened certain doors for him while his personality and abilities opened others. Even after Apartheid ended, life continued to be very divided. After all, one doesn’t simply get rid of 50 plus years of traditions, habits and prejudices overnight.
I would absolutely recommend this one, and thanks again to everyone that responded to my FB request! The audiobook was also helpful since Noah reads it himself so as someone not from South Africa, I got to hear the proper pronunciations of different tribe names and words, the fragments he says in other languages as well as the accents when he quotes his mother and other friends and family members.