African Women: Three Generations

Mark Mathabane, Author
Mark Mathabane, Author HarperCollins Publishers $23 (366p) ISBN 978-0-06-016496-6
Reviewed on: 04/04/1994
Release date: 04/01/1994
Paperback - 978-0-06-092583-3
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Mathabane won a wide readership with Kaffir Boy , his account of growing up in apartheid South Africa, and its sequel Kaffir Boy in America. Here he presents a gritty oral history of his grandmother, mother and sister, who overcame relationships with abusive men and struggled to maintain their self-reliance and dignity. His maternal grandmother, Ellen, tells a harrowing tale of being abandoned by her husband for another woman, and of watching her father and brother die, victims of witchcraft. Ellen's daughter, Geli (the author's mother), was sold for the traditional bride-price to a man she abhorred, a compulsive gambler who beat her and drove her into temporary insanity. Florah, Mathabane's sister, took part in looting and mob violence in the 1976 anti-apartheid student rebellion; later, a single mother, she struggled to extricate herself from a relationship with an ex-convict. The alternating first-person narratives are reconstructed from interviews which Mathabane's wife conducted with these three women, leaving a reader with the impression that the jarringly articulate testimonies that appear here have been heavily reworded by the author. Author tour. (Apr.)
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