From Publishers Weekly
The Sandra Laing case made international news as an example of South Africa's apartheid at its nuttiest, when, in 1966, the nine-year-old Laing, who was significantly darker than her white-skinned parents, was reclassified as Coloured and expelled from the white school she was attending. At 11, she was classified white again, and at 26, through her own efforts, became Coloured again. Laing had a hard life, especially after she ran away from home at 14 with the first of a succession of married black men. Although an anti-apartheid poster child outside of South Africa, Laing's memory so often fails her that Stone's book becomes an exercise in recovered memory, coupled with a reliance upon the remote expertise of various "lawyers, historians, geneticists, sociologists, psychologists, and some of the South-African journalists who'd covered her story over the years." Stone is at her most successful in eliciting recollections of misery and family strife. She fills in the blanks with "official documents, government records, newspaper archives, and interviews" with Laing's friends, family and other community members. But Laing is, unfortunately, too frail a vessel upon which to hang all this, along with digressive minilectures on genetics, history, anthropology and economics. (Apr.)
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In 1966 in South Africa, Sandra Laing, 10, was reclassified as "Coloured" and expelled from her white boarding school and taken home by police to her white, pro-apartheid family. She told herself that it happened because she punched her classmates who tormented her for her light brown skin and frizzy hair. Her family was able to have her reclassified again as white, but at 16 she eloped with a black man, raised several children in a poor township, and was reclassified once more as black. Her father and siblings disowned her, though she still dreams of reunion with her mother. Her case has received national and international news coverage over the years, including in a documentary film. Now American journalist Stone interviews Sandra and sets her personal memories, patchy as they sometimes may be, against the political changes--and the things that have not changed--in the new South Africa. A riveting family drama of the arbitrariness and cruelty of apartheid's racial classification system. Hazel Rochman
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