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Innocents in Africa: An American Family's Story - Softcover

 
9780140140934: Innocents in Africa: An American Family's Story
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Recounts the author's experiences growing up in South Africa as the son of an American mining engineer who went to work in the gold and diamond mines during the Depression, unaware of the social conditions that the family would encounter

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From Kirkus Reviews:
A beautifully rendered, bittersweet memoir of an American family abroad in an alien place--the bleak mining towns of southern Africa in the 1930's and 40's--that limns exactly childhood's enviable ability to live for the moment. To tell his tale, Pifer (a playwright and former pilot born in 1933) relies on his memories but most of all on his parents' letters to his grandmother--a weekly record of their 13 years in Africa. His father--a mining engineer who graduated at the height of the Depression--accepted a position at a South African gold mine because it was the only offer he got. Excited by the prospects, Pifer's newly married parents sold their wedding presents, borrowed money for their passage, and left home: ``The Depression set them in motion, the Namaqualand desert would burn up their youth, the European war would keep them exiled,'' and soon, in a parched land, they would travel from ``innocence to experience.'' It's this innocence--a distinctly American innocence--that kept the family from folding as Pifer's father, energetic and talented, was always denied his due rewards. ``Fooled by Africa, he pressed American solutions onto African complexities,'' but caught between wily English mine-owners and resentful Afrikaner miners who hated anything English, his efforts to improve conditions for the Africans were inevitably sabotaged--in Nigel, a dusty, mean place where the author was born; in the desert outposts where De Beers diamonds are mined and the wind blows every afternoon; even in Kimberley, where the family lived well. Hardships caused his mother's early death, Pifer says, and shadowed his father's life- -but as for himself, the experience let him ``advance at my own slow African pace, picking my confused way through a world where there existed not one but two sources of light.'' A book of so many good things--love, wisdom, and luminous prose--that's also a unique record of an American childhood in pre- 1948 South Africa. (B&w photographs) -- Copyright 1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
From Booklist:
Although it depicts the clash of cultures in South Africa before and during World War II, Pifer's story of his childhood and coming of age also compellingly portrays a specific boy's development. Pifer's father was an American mining engineer who brought his bride to South Africa in search of economic opportunity during the Depression. He found instead disappointment after disappointment. His son recounts his parents' experience with the knowledge of hindsight, which allows him to portray them as "people who had dreamed of a new life on a better planet and found themselves instead in a perpetual sandstorm." In the midst of that sandstorm, their son learned about racism and power from his experience with Africans, Afrikaners, British colonials, and German workers, whose numbers included many dedicated Nazi supporters. Pifer also learned about life and himself, of course, and he reports marvelously well such incidents as seeing his first shooting star, discovering that everyone dies, and letting his fascination with Siamese twins lead him to assume two dogs attached at the hindquarters are the canine equivalent. His wonderfully crafted, consistently interesting memoir is a treasury of both the big and the small incident. Lindsay Throm

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  • PublisherPenguin Books / Granta
  • Publication date1995
  • ISBN 10 014014093X
  • ISBN 13 9780140140934
  • BindingPaperback
  • Edition number1
  • Number of pages352
  • Rating

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780151075645: Innocents in Africa: An American Family's Story

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0151075646 ISBN 13:  9780151075645
Publisher: Harcourt, 1994
Hardcover

  • 9781862071346: Innocents in Africa: An American Family's Story

    Granta..., 1998
    Softcover

  • 9780140140927: INNOCENTS IN AFRICA: An American Family"s Story

    Granta..., 1994
    Hardcover

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