Nomvete’s debut memoir recounts her struggle to find herself.
As a child, Nomvete’s activist parents were exiled from their native South Africa, and the author spent her childhood in other African countries and England. With the end of apartheid, she returned to her homeland to vote and ended up staying. Already a successful stage actress in England, she had no trouble landing work in South Africa, and she soon starred on the popular South African soap opera Generations. She became a celebrity, but the fame was difficult to handle. She found herself hiding in her home, and she sought solace in alcohol and cigarettes as well as the toxic relationships to which she seemed drawn. Though her work allowed her to meet and talk with both Nelson and Winnie Mandela, her personal life continued to unravel. She eventually left the soap opera while her own life took on its own soap opera–like quality. At her lowest point, she was living in her car and begging people for money. Her honest, unflinching memoir is told in a clear and readable style with poetic touches: “Idyllic. That is definitely how I would describe my childhood. Idyllic.” It mostly focuses on the time she spent in South Africa, and she describes in great detail her life as a successful actress. But there’s a bitter undercurrent when she recalls incidents where she felt that South African performers were not treated with the same respect as those from other countries: For instance, some performers were excluded from the VIP room at a function in a South African historical venue where Nelson Mandela was scheduled to appear, or the fact that she had to travel via a hot, uncomfortable bus to a foreign-film festival. She’s critical of the mistakes she made in her personal life, while she also attempts to justify some of the reasons behind her making such poor decisions. In recounting her own experiences, Nomvete also looks at some of the changes in the “new” South Africa, pointing out improvements but more often highlighting areas that still need to be addressed, such as the nation’s widespread poverty.
Nomvete’s willingness to unveil her affecting story makes for a moving read that will instill hope and inspiration.