From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.
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Nelson Mandela calls Wilderson “a threat to national security.” Wilderson asks, Why does Mandela compromise? Radical, defiant, and searingly honest, this memoir about being active in the freedom struggle in the U.S. and in post-apartheid South Africa is bound to spark passionate argument as Wilderson weaves together his personal story with his politics, always critical of those in power. The only black kid in his suburban Minnesota school, he grows up hearing the n-word all the time. His parents beat him for refusing to pledge allegiance. A graduate of Dartmouth, on the faculty at Berkeley, he confronts the prejudice behind New Age facades. In Johannesburg in the 1980s and early 1990s, he joins the African National Congress. Occasionally, the account flags with too much detail on the author’s experiences in both countries, back and forth over time, but what holds you fast is his lack of reverence and self-importance; he is as candid about his attraction for white women as he is about his nostalgia for “a homeland that never was.” --Hazel Rochman