Gillian Slovo's life has been extraordinary. She is the daughter of South Africa's most prominent white anti-apartheid leaders: Ruth First, the journalist and political activist assassinated in exile in 1982, and Joe Slovo, South African Communist Party head and eventual Minister of Housing in the government headed by his old friend Nelson Mandela ...
Gillian Slovo's life has been extraordinary. She is the daughter of South Africa's most prominent white anti-apartheid leaders: Ruth First, the journalist and political activist assassinated in exile in 1982, and Joe Slovo, South African Communist Party head and eventual Minister of Housing in the government headed by his old friend Nelson Mandela. Slovo grew up in a household fraught with secrets, where a police tail was commonplace on every family outing, and where letters were written in code and phones were tapped. In telling her story, she recounts her childhood agony at always coming second to "the cause" and gives us an illuminating portrait of the mysteries and turmoil at the heart of every family's history. For her own safety, she was sent to England at the age of twelve, leaving behind a troubling family past. With the end of apartheid, Slovo returned to South Africa to reclaim her childhood¨ and to confront her mother's murderer. Delving into her past, she uncovered the parents she never knew. What she learned¨ about their public roles and their private lives, including their affairs¨ shocked and angered her but ultimately gave her the strength to make peace with the past. In a voice that makes the extraordinary sweep of history fresh and intimate, she brings sharply into focus all the brutality of the apartheid system. At the same time, she provides splendid glimpses of the leaders who, like her parents, fought against it.
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-04-07 "In most families, it is the children who leave home. In mine it was the parents." So writes Gillian Slovo, the daughter of white South Africa's most famous radical couple: Ruth First and Joe Slovo. Now in her 40s, Gillian attempts to find answers to questions that resonate as if from a Nadine Gordimer novel: How much did her communist parents, who were fighting apartheid horrors, owe their three neglected children? Her perspective is less one of bitterness than ache, coupled with the psychological curiosity of the novelist she is. Gillian first reconstructs the circumstances of her mother's 1982 death by letter bomb (via South African agents) in Mozambique, then delves into her own dislocated youth, when her mother was detained by the state and the family's modus operandi was secrecy. In 1990, Joe Slovo returned to South Africa as one of the African National Congress's top negotiators; he later became the new government's housing minister. Once white South Africa's bogeyman, he was now lionized. But the pensive Gillian, down from London, finds her father resistant to talking about his past. Only after Joe dies peacefully does Gillian find out some family secrets: mutual infidelities, a half-brother fathered by Joe. Also, she has a remarkable confrontation with the evasive ex-cop who helped send that letter bomb. In the end of this fluid, often fascinating memoir, Gillian does find peace, judging her parents less harshly and feeling pride in the country, her country, that her parents did help save. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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