Thoughts

When my thoughts race all over the place then I must be the craziest yet most empathetic person around. But then only I know it.

I’ve lived more of my life in Australia but my connection with South Africa will forever be a big part of who I am. I did a whole lot of growing up there.

As we age, our childhood memories become more precious. There are triggers, someone mentions a game or a particular snack or even a song and it can set off hours of conversation. I know in our household it does. Just ask our children.

For those born in the 50s and 60s, things were very different in apartheid South Africa. Some younger South Africans, thankfully, won’t know the full horror of apartheid. They were impacted economically but may not necessarily have experienced the daily humiliations that their parents or even older siblings suffered.

This is why we need more stories. We must ensure that this information is not lost. I grew up during a time when segregation between the races were strictly enforced by law. Depending on socio economic backgrounds, the different race groups never mixed socially. I worked with people in an office but could not sit in a cafe with them. It was forbidden by law, based on my skin colour.

What bothered me when I wrote A Darker Shade of Pale is, there were fellow South Africans who allowed the discrimination to continue. They sat down in a cafe when they knew that I could not. Many white South Africans relished in the life that was handed to them.

What I will say, is this, my observation, many of us don’t know in South Africa and out of it, we don’t know where we belong or who we are. The human rights history of South Africa is so tragic. We need black and white South Africans to bridge the gap, so that those who were classified as mixed race can slot in.

I’m not talking about those who are wealthy, who are living a different life because economically they can choose their path. I’m referring to those, they call ‘previously’ disadvantaged, but who remain disadvantaged.

I couldn’t get to know white or black South Africans while growing up. But our lives were intertwined in some absurd way. I think absurd is the right word here.

I was thrown into that absurd mess without my permission. And many of us sought refuge in a foreign land. White and black South Africans with so much in common but too polarised to know it.

We need true reconciliation. An apology, or a simple statement: It was wrong, we should have known better. Just don’t say ‘we didn’t know’, cause that is painful.

I am an author

Saturday 3 February 2018 at 4.00 am, I woke up to the news that my book had been uploaded to online bookstores for pre sales. In the glow of my bedside lamp, I read the message. I clicked the link and there was my name, author of A Darker Shade of Pale; a memoir of apartheid South Africa.

Not wanting to wake Chris, I got out of bed and walked to the kitchen to turn on the kettle.

In the silence the realisation clicked in. I am an author.

The years of dreaming, writing, rewriting, talking about it, seeking advice from professionals and just muddling along have now amounted to something. I finally have a fully written and edited book.

As dawn broke over Sydney, NSW that morning, my heart soared. I thought of my father and my siblings who have left this earth. I wished that I could share this moment with them. But I know they are with me and are cheering me on.

I would share the news with Chris, Mum, my children and other siblings later that day.

My coffee tasted good. The silence was good. I am an author.

front and back cover

Why do I write?

Writing forms such an important part of my life. I grew up with stories and storytelling long before the era of television. My storytellers were my teachers and books from the local library. My first teacher in primary school, Mrs Williams, was a joy to listen to. Her voice assumed the character and she took us on a journey with her through every page. She inspired me to read. I loved to write and created my own stories from a very young age; always with the passion and burning desire to write a book one day. Well, I finally took the plunge, left my full-time job and turned to writing. The road wasn’t an easy one. I faced many obstacles and more moments of utter despair than I would care to mention.

But here I am today, through support from family and friends, sheer determination , an editor who came straight from heaven; by the grace of God I survived this journey to publication.

When I started writing my memoir, A Darker Shade of Pale, I wanted to leave our future generations with information of their heritage. My whole family, except for one niece, left South Africa to start a new life in Australia. I realised that our children won’t have aunties and uncles or neighbours to tell them about their family. We are the pioneers of our family branch here in this country, and they needed a resource that could give them the answers about where there ancestors came from.

My mother has been blessed with a long life, but at 87 we know her time here on earth is getting shorter. Surrounded by 3 generations of her family, her determination to raise us through tough times in apartheid South Africa must be told and recorded. Our future generations must know this.

A Darker Shade of Pale will be available world-wide at online stores and selected bookstores from 17 April 2018.

A Darker Shade of Pale

A Darker Shade of Pale tells the story of life as a person of mixed race in apartheid South Africa.

After the National Party gained power in South Africa in 1948, the all-white government took control by legislating their policies of racial segregation under a system called apartheid.

Forced to live among the sand dunes and narrow streets of Council housing estates, through her mixed ancestry Beryl was classified as Coloured, not white enough or not black enough. This allowed the government to shape her life, where she was allowed to live, to attend school, to sit on the train, to work, and who she could marry.

Growing up in council housing estates on the Cape Flats in the 1960s and early 1970s it wasn’t until reaching high school that she discovered a richer life on the other side of the tracks for those classified as white. The stark reality of the inequality towards her skin colour made her question her ancestry and her parents’ acceptance of their classification. She was drawn to joining rallies to fight the government but at home any such discussions were strongly dismissed.

It is a remarkable story of the resilience of her parents, particularly her mother Sarah who recognised that the future for her children was through education. Sarah, faced with many challenges – the death of a young child, a husband suffering ill-health, five children to feed and to keep a roof over their head powered the way forward to increase their chances of a better life should apartheid crumble.

A Darker Shade of Pale is a moving account of Beryl’s family and community life in segregated South Africa – the injustices, humiliation and challenges and finally finding acceptance when she moved to Australia in the 1980s.

Release date: 17 April 2018