cover image And They Didn't Die

And They Didn't Die

Lauretta Ngcobo. George Braziller, $19.95 (245pp) ISBN 978-0-8076-1263-7

This dignified novel by the author of the Cross of Gold powerfully depicts the inhumanity of apartheid in the South Africa of the 1940s to '70s. After a six-month imprisonment for burning her pass, Jezile Majola becomes the sole support of her family when her husband is jailed for 10 years. His crime--stealing milk from a white farmer to feed their starving baby daughter. The child lives; without her husband's income, however, Jezile must work outside her impoverished rural community to feed both their girls. Shortly after securing a job hundreds of miles away, with an Afrikaans family in Bloomfontein, Jezile is raped by her employer and must return home in shame with her newborn mulatto son. Tribal law forces her to relinquish custody of her daughters because the boy is illegitimate. She watches helplessly as all three of her children and her country fall victim to apartheid's brutality. Jezile commits one final act of courage to rescue her children from the system and places her own life in jeopardy. Ngcobo writes with grace and compassion about one woman's suffering, meanwhile providing insights into Bantu village culture, the injustices of the legal system, the routines and atmosphere of black prisons, and the indomitable spirit of an oppressed people. (Mar.)