My Family, My Country
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 Weaving the personal and political tightly together, novelist Slovo creates an incisive and unflinching portrait of her prominent South African family. At the height of apartheid, perhaps no two white South Africans were more hated and more admired than Slovo's parents, Ruth First and Joe Slovo. As prominent members of the ANC and the South African Communist Party (which Joe would eventually head), they had gone where few white South Africans dared. Not content with the subdued grumbling and subversive tea parties that usually passed for anti-apartheid activism in their privileged circle, they became increasingly radicalized and escaped into exile. While Ruth fought for the cause largely through journalism and academic research, Joe lived a life of secrecy and subterfuge, planning how to hit back at the apartheid regime through sabotage and terror. Though the South African government wanted both of them dead, Ruth was the easier target. In 1982, a mail bomb killed her in Mozambique. Joe lived to help negotiate--peacefully--South Africa's future. But soon after Mandela appointed him minister of housing, he was stricken with cancer and quickly died. As Slovo investigates the wilderness of mirrors that constituted her parents' political lives, she also tries to discover who they really were as individuals behind the secrets and the lies. She has covered some of this ground before in fiction (Ties of Blood, 1990), but what she discovered and recounts here has a strangeness and piquancy quite beyond her fictive powers. Not only does she track down and confront one of the men responsible for her mother's death--a cool and clever equivocator, largely unrepentant--she also movingly details the pain and the pride she felt growing up in such strange, terrible times. A memorable and emotionally compelling achievement.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1997
ISBN: 0-316-79923-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997


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