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Twilight People: One Man's Journey To Find His Roots Hardcover – May 25, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
When David Houze and his mother escaped apartheid in South Africa for America, a country that represented promise and opportunity, their 1966 arrival in Meridian, Mississippi proved dispiriting: the "grinding poverty" and resolute segregation that greeted them did not appear too different from that which they fled. Houze begins by exploring his rural Mississippi childhood as he tried to understand his identity-a pale-skinned "coloured" boy from Africa-during the height of the civil rights movement. Amid the chaos of the fight for racial equality, Houze found himself being treated as-and consequently viewing himself as-an anomaly, a "white nigger" with "African blood and guts." In 1992, Houze returned to South Africa, as the country struggled to form a democracy, to explore his country's changes and reunite with his three sisters. With White power crumbling and the Black majority demanding representation, Houze finds "in-between" people struggling to find their place. Those classified as Coloureds received slightly better treatment than Indians and Blacks, which forced them to grapple with a new kind of unjustice-the kind that worked, however slightly, in their favor Houze'graceful memoir is a sensitive look into racial history in Africa and America, as well as a riveting personal narrative. 8 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* The parallels between the civil rights movement in the South and the antiapartheid struggle continue to be the focus of many political histories. Journalist Houze not only reports on those connections; he has been there, in both countries. Born in South Africa, he left as a baby in 1966 with his "Coloured" (mixed-race) mother, who dreamed of a better life with her black American husband. Houze grew up poor in Meridien, Mississippi, at the time of fierce struggle. Then he returned to South Africa, to find his siblings and himself, initially in 1992, when the country was on the verge of its first democratic election, and again in 2004. The blending of the personal with the political is never slick metaphor in his account; it is fact. His own family story is a gripping way to fill in the social history and bring it close. Houze has also read the best histories and memoirs about both countries' struggles, all clearly documented in the source notes. He visits John Vorster prison in Johannesburg, the site of unspeakable atrocity, and it reminds him of the murder of Emmett Till. With South Africa undergoing revolutionary change, his eloquent observation of the contemporary scene is right on the mark. Just as compelling is the discussion of his mixed-race identity, in South Africa and here. He is honest about the history of class consciousness and shame yet celebratory about being the "archetype" of multiracialism. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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David's story moves from a life of odd jobs, a residence hotel, a mouthful of rotting teeth, and family secrets through an unfunded investigation to uncover those family secrets--while creating not a little family chaos of his own along the way. But, the truth will out, and with it the pus and gangrene that has kept the family wounds from healing. Strands of reconcilation provide hope at book's end.
David has gracefully set his personal story in the context of racial politics in Mississippi and The Republic of South Africa. His research is good enough that it's not labored and we can clearly see the connections between the two places--with his life and the life of his family serving as the object lesson. Focusing on racial hybrids and the complexities surrounding their acceptance and base of power is a genuine contribution to the literature of race.
Truth is the fruit of his search: true work, truth within the family, and a truer sense of himself. Who could ask for more?
--Janet Grace Riehl, author Sightlines: A Poet's Diary