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Mother to Mother (Bluestreak) Paperback – September 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Bluestreak
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (September 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807009490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807009499
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The senseless killing of Amy Biehl, a young Fulbright scholar who had gone to South Africa to help residents prepare for the first democratic elections in the history of that country, is the basis for this novel. On the day before she was scheduled to return home to America in August 1993, Amy gave a ride to several co-workers who lived in the poverty-ravaged all-black township of Guguletu. Rioting students pulled her from her car and stabbed her. South African novelist and short story writer Sindiwe Magona eschews a tabloid recreation of the crime, envisioning instead the world of Amy's killers, and creating in Mandisa, the mother of one of those young men, a martyr whose heart and life reflect the tragedy of apartheid. As her son Mxolisi's guilt is revealed, Mandisa mourns him, equating her loss with Amy's mother's. Determined to strike a common chord of grief with the woman she views as her Sister-Mother, Mandisa laments the circumstances of her own life, thereby hoping to explain her son's actions. She recalls with affecting clarity her coming of age in a stern but loving community whose reliance on established customs are a refuge from the relentless and brutal change instigated by the government's apartheid policy. Happy until the age of nine, when her family is forced to relocate to a desolate patch of land, Mandisa becomes a mother at 15 and a housemaid shortly thereafter. Mxolisi's introduction to racial violence occurs as a child, when he witnesses the shooting deaths of two older boys whom he idolizes; by age 20, he's become a respected leader of the student revolutionary movement. Although Magona's pacing seems irritatingly slow at times, the mood becomes taut as Mxolisi and Amy approach their moment of destiny in this chilling and ingenious docudrama, a noteworthy American debut for a writer whose work has received well-deserved praise in her own country. 3-city author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Based on the death of Amy Biehl, a white American student killed by black youths in South Africa in 1993, this novel looks at the murder through the eyes of the killer's mother (in the novel, only one youth committed the crime). In a letter to the murdered woman's mother, Mandisa tells the story of her oldest son, Mxolisi, born when she was 14. Growing up under apartheid, with little education, crushing poverty, and no hope for the future, Mxolisi becomes one of the lost ones, so full of rage that every white face becomes the enemy and freedom is won only through blood. Yet as Magona shows, each character must share some responsibility for the tragedy that destroys two families, making this more than simply a novelization of a headline. Magona's portrayal of one mother's suffering is written with depth, honesty, and compassion for all of apartheid's victims. First published in South Africa in 1998, this is recommended for large public libraries and libraries with collections of modern African literature.AEllen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
I just spent my summer doing an internship teaching mothers from a squatter camp English literacy. Mother to Mother is one of the most impactful books I read while there. This book explains South Africa and the many complexities and discouraging factors that plague the beloved country. It has an excellent way of showing the heartache that a mother feels and the powerlessness of a mother to control her sons actions, but the unconditional love that a mother has for her child. I am very impressed by this book and would encourage everyone to read it. It will help you understand why things are the way they are in that country. It is easy to judge people, but this book puts the blacks actions into perspective. I love this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ms Magona explains without any excuses why Mxolisi is a murderer. As a mother during apartheid the possibilities for Mandisa, Mxolisi's mother to direct her son's future did not exist. Mxolisi grew up in an enviroment where whites equal sorrow, death, distraction, poverty to name but a few. He never got the oppurtunity to grow up knowing that there are people like Amy Biehl. There are people who do look at blacks, as human beings. No mother comes from the hospital with a murderer in her arms. Every child deserves a chance, read the book to find out what Mxolisi's chances were. The book will take you on a tour of South Africa, it's past, and the possibilities of the future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jconsumer on April 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
In Sindiwe Magona's Mother to Mother, the old cliché put yourself in my shoes takes an interesting and unheard of twist. It is an excellent novel that gives impelling testimony of history as a basis for the actions of youth. In the story she is the mother of an accused murderer speaking to the mother of the victim. She tries to explain her and her son's history so the mother of the victim could understand why or how her son would kill her daughter. At a glance you would think what! Or how dare she! But because Magona goes into such depth of her peoples' background and uses first person throughout the novel, you will find yourself empathizing with the trials of her people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is riveting. The mother-daughter relationship is powerful. The mother-son relationship is heart wrenching and warming. I felt the pain of blacks in South Africa. The understandable rage of teens in an oppressive environment is so clearly described. The human spirit that helps people survive even the most miserable conditions is a thread through this book as well. This book is a powerful read. I feel like I have been given a window on the human condition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
Mother to Mother tugs at the heartstrings as it reveals the anguish that this mother experiences on developing and raising up her family under the harsh apartheid system of government in South Africa. It is a real eye-opener as the author takes the reader on a journey into the homes of families uprooted by change.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tichaona M. Chinyelu on October 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Drawing from the 1993 killing of Amy Biehl in apartheid-era South Africa, Mother to Mother, a novel by Sindiwe Magona, shares with us a different perspective. Literature about murders of white people by black people tend to avoid the women in the killer's life - unless it's framed in terms of pathology. In Native Sun, for instance, the women were silent [as well as the first to be killed]. It is very rare for such women to be allowed to narrate their own life stories. With her quietly powerful novel, Magona has changed that dynamic.

From the author's preface (abbreviated):

Fulbright scholar Amy Elizabeth Biehl was set upon and killed by a mob of black youth in Guguletu, South Africa in August 1993. The outpouring of grief, outrage and support for the Biehl family was unprecedented in the history of the country.

[---]

In my novel, there is only one killer. Through his mother's memories, we get a glimpse of human callousness of the kind that made the murder of Amy Biehl possible. And here I am back in the legacy of apartheid - a system repressive and brutal, that bred senseless inter- and intra-racial violence as well as other nefarious happenings; a system that promoted a twisted sense of right and wrong, with everything seen through the warped prism of the overarching crime against humanity, as the international community labelled it.

The mother, Mandisa, had her oldest child, Mxolisi - the one who, through his actions, catapults her into narration - when she was a 15 year old school girl. It has to be noted that, at the time of her pregnancy. Mandisa was a virgin. The inclusion of an African immaculate conception raises immediate questions concerning Magona's intent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. Pritchett on June 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mother to Mother is one of the best books I have ever read! I truly enhoyed it. I had to read for a South African Lit course at my college. It was my favorite and I even did a research paper on it. I highly recommend it to all- because it gives a very different perspective on a tragic situation. A side of the story very rarely encountered when one is not the "victim."
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