In Johannesburg in the 1960s, a white, Jewish girl's struggles with puberty and with her mother's unfortunate remarriage are exacerbated by the sexual repressiveness and social injustice she sees all around her.
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Gr. 8-12. Growing up as a nice Jewish girl in Johannesburg in the 1960s, 16-year-old Ruth fights with her racist stepfather and worries that her boyfriend will find her too flat chested. Ruth knows it's unfair that the white "masters" and "madams" live so lavishly while blacks are so poor, but she's not really interested in politics anyway. Also, there's nothing she can do about it ("Basically, I thought I was charitable to blacks and all that"). Silver evokes the world of white privilege with a sharp eye for the cruel and the absurd. Without in any way belittling Ruth's YA angst about family, self-image, and sex, he shows how small and smug her suburban world is. As in Sacks' Beyond Safe Boundaries (1989) and Silver's own No Tigers in Africa (1992), the teenager is shocked awake when "politics" affects someone close: Her friend's brother is imprisoned, tortured, and then forced into exile. What's more, Ruth discovers her own corruption when she gets the garden "boy" dismissed for inadvertently spying on her when she's using her breast vibrator. The vignettes of the social scene go on too long, and a plot contrivance about witch doctor medicine works neither as fact nor as metaphor. It's Ruth's narrative, self-absorbed and naive, that carries the story. In one quiet climax, she meets a young black student, Ben, and discovers that he is a person; at the end of the story, Ben is still in prison, detained without trial. Hazel RochmanFrom School Library Journal:
Grade 7-10-Conflicts with her stepfather, concerns about her too-small breasts, and thinking about boys take center stage in the life of a white Jewish girl. Set in recent Johannesburg before the government began its move away from apartheid, the story shows how the unequal interrelatedness of black and white is a dimension of almost every situation. While Ruthie becomes involved with the fringes of political protest through a boyfriend's family, the relationships with servants are where she really experiences South African race relations. It is in this arena that she witnesses blacks giving whites a level of love and acceptance missing in her own family; and it is here that, through cross-cultural fear and misunderstanding, the girl has to face guilt for her mother's death. This adolescent's view of apartheid is convincing, despite its being considerably limited by that perspective. Ruthie's flat, rather passionless voice may reflect the isolated and superficial world of many South African whites, but it makes her (and her family) hard to like or care about very much. The central characters in Margaret Sacks's Beyond Safe Boundaries (Dutton, 1989) are more three dimensional, and the protagonist is also a teenaged girl in essentially the same setting.
Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Dutton Children's Books, New York, 1992. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. Novel for adolescent readers about a Jewish South African girl and issues of self-acceptance and race relations. Bookseller Inventory # 4409
Book Description Dutton Juvenile, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0525451617
Book Description Dutton Books for Young Readers, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0525451617