Getting a copy of Michelle Obama's "Becoming" this Christmas put me in a reflective mood. There is much in it to make you think about life, our roles in society, and our roles in our families. What does it mean to be a woman, a corporate lawyer, a mother, and in her case, black? Why do some of us have the need to try so dang hard to prove that we are good enough, that we belong?
One of the most profound lifestyle changes we were subjected to when moving to South Africa was the way we consumed books. Back home in the United States, going to the library had been a regular family ritual. Books were abundant and free, and everyone read to their heart's content. Not so in South Africa. This is why you need and Audible subscription as an expat.
As an expat, I often reflect on which qualities make a good expat. But what is true for expats is also true for travel companions. The hilarious travel memoir "What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding" elaborates on a certain less-than ideal travel companion and gives excellent advice in form of a list "you use when interviewing your next potential trip partner."
Nothing, at age 13, is fun and glory - it's all about pimples, insecurity, and heartbreak. The Spud trilogy tells it all beautifully, viewed through the eyes of the teenager John "Spud" Milton who receives a scholarship to one of South Africa's prestigious boarding schools, Michaelhouse. It's a great read about a schoolboy's life in South Africa.
"We Are Not Such Things" is the story of author Justine van der Leun’s quest to get to the bottom of what really happened the day Amy Biehl, an American student in South Africa, was killed by an angry mob in a township near Cape Town in 1993. Amy’s parents later publicly forgave the men convicted of her murder. The details of how it all unfolded are fascinating.
South Africans have seen Trevor Noah rise through the ranks of comedians to become a South African icon. No one does accents as well as Trevor Noah does, and no country like South Africa gives you so much good material for them. But even South Africans may not know much about Noah's past. He was "Born a Crime," which is also the title of his newly-released memoir.
Tony Park is an Australian author who writes novels set in southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa. His books are sold around the world with two, Ivory and The Delta, so far available in the U.S. He recently launched his 13th novel, Red Earth, which is set in KwaZulu Natal. He is a fellow expat, spending six months of every year in Africa where he has a house near the Kruger Park.
You know the saying Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all? Well, I think it might be the opposite in the case of domestic help. Losing your maid after returning to a land where live-in domestic help was last affordable in the 1950s is so painful, so utterly despair-inducing, that you might be better off never having enjoyed a helper in your home in the first place.
I've often wondered how it might feel if our life wasn't so compartmentalized. If, like so many people do, I'd stayed in my home town and grown older surrounded by the same set of friends I met in first grade. It's almost impossible to imagine, but it does have a certain appeal, like not having to always explain where I'm from.
I don't think you can review Circling the Sun, a historical novel about Beryl Markham - pioneering woman bush pilot, horse trainer, adventurer, scorned lover, a woman much ahead of her time but also a complete product of her time and place - without also reviewing the memoir Beryl Markham herself wrote about her life, so please forgive me if I end up talking about both.