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The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles, Book 1, Emma Book 2, Marla Paperback – September 21, 2011
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The Daughter of Union County
To save his heritage, he hides his daughter’s true identity—but he can’t protect her forever. Learn More
By Reading has Purpose. One of my goals for the year was to read 3 fiction books (I think it was 3). I made it through two: The Five People You Meet in Heaven and A Lesson Before Dying. When I received the pitch for this book, I decided to request a review copy and make it the 3rd. The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles is a book that contains two stories: Book 1 Emma, a young girl, finds that she is classified as a second class citizen because she is biracial (white and black). She rebels and decides to cross the colour barrier and enter the white European community with her fair skin allowing her to pass as white; Book 2 Marla, Emma s daughter, is raised as white and at the university she attends, becomes very active in opposing apartheid. She learns from Emma that her true grandmother is a Cape Coloured and is on her deathbed. Emma would like her mother to see a grandchild she never knew she had. As I read through Book 1, I could see that a lot of care went into this novel. It is filled with historical facts and vivid details of the characters. The author also includes content on cultural idiosyncrasies in some Cape Town communities. I was curious enough to circle several of these items and enjoyed the extra tidbits I picked up after doing additional research of my own. I did not expect that I d have to learn so many characters. A few times I thought everyone had been introduced only to see another unfamiliar name. Once I made it to Chapter 6, I didn t want to meet anyone else! However, the author established a connection between all of these people and the main character, Emma. Emma decides to leave home in order to assume a new identity and live as a white woman. She disguises anything about herself that would allow her to be identified as black in her quest to live an unrestricted life. I'm not sure how to feel about this decision. The synopsis on the back cover of the book heralds her as an unsung hero'. I wouldn't go that far. Is it heroic to live a life that denies part of who you are? Is it heroic to befriend people and have a romantic relationship with a man while intentionally hiding from them your true self? There s so surprise in the irony that by denying she was black she was always fearful that someone would discover who she really was. --Reading has Purpose
The lives of Emma and Marla will absorb a readers attention. Emma s struggles and achievements touch your heart and inspire you to work harder - improving life for yourself and your family, but also for those around you who experience society s injustices. Marla s storybook romance adds to the enjoyment of the book. This historical fiction account of life in 1920 s through 1960 s South Africa concludes with a short chapter - entitled The Politics - which gives additional information about events related to apartheid. The two sections of the book focus first on the life of Emma, then on the life of Marla, her daughter. Emma (Emily,) born into a coloured family, feels the injustice of the segregationist society; however because she is able to pass as a white, she crosses barriers that the rest of her family cannot. Emma strongly believes in the power of education. After completing high school, she is determined to attend the university, but her family is large and needs the income she could provide. Rather than work at a low-paying job in Cape Town, Emma decides to use her lighter skin and the English language she perfected to travel to Johannesburg to live and work as a white. Emma keeps learning, working hard, and making friends, some of whom know her secret. (Some of her friends fled Nazi Germany only to find a similar prejudice infesting the country to which they had escaped.) She sends her family money which they use to improve their house, when permitted, and educate her sisters and brothers. Behind the scenes, she works with and donates money to groups that are attempting to reverse apartheid laws, while also trying to stop the imposition of harsher new laws after the 1960 s. Her daughter Marla is raised as a white, but she and many of her college friends protest the government s policies although this always causes Emma to worry that Marla s heritage will be discovered. Young adult and adult readers will enjoy reading the story of Emily s transformation into Emma, a store lingerie buyer, homeowner, and part-time model. The friendships and romances of both Emma and Marla introduce intelligent, sometimes funny, caring characters into the storyline. For a reader who knows very little about South Africa and its history, the book is a wealth of information about a beautiful country, blessed with rich resources, but troubled by segregationist attitudes which became more established and immoral over time. --Live to Read
From the Author
Top Customer Reviews
This historical fiction account of life in 1920's through 1960's South Africa concludes with a short chapter - entitled "The Politics" - which gives additional information about events related to apartheid. The two sections of the book focus first on the life of Emma, then on the life of Marla, her daughter.
Emma (Emily,) born into a "coloured" family, feels the injustice of the segregationist society; however because she is able to "pass" as a "white," she crosses barriers that the rest of her family cannot. Emma strongly believes in the power of education. After completing high school, she is determined to attend the university, but her family is large and needs the income she could provide. Rather than work at a low-paying job in Cape Town, Emma decides to use her lighter skin and the English language she perfected to travel to Johannesburg to live and work as a "white." Emma keeps learning, working hard, and making friends, some of whom know her secret. (Some of her friends fled Nazi Germany only to find a similar prejudice infesting the country to which they had escaped.) She sends her family money which they use to improve their house, when permitted, and educate her sisters and brothers. Behind the scenes, she works with and donates money to groups that are attempting to reverse apartheid laws, while also trying to stop the imposition of harsher new laws after the 1960's.Read more ›
The book spans the decades before and during the struggle to deal with apartheid in South Africa, up to recent years. Singer follows two female characters, a mother, Emma, and daughter Marla through Emma's early years, right into Marla's adulthood, from the times of a racist country in the throes of Apartheid to the present struggle to rid itself of the lingering effects of that destructive policy. This is a book about politics, racism, and the struggle for equality. Yet it avoids the common pitfalls of focusing on the sensational aspects that so often show in acts of rage and violence. Rather, it stays inside the lives of two very `real' people learning how to live in a segregated world without losing their dignity or becoming embroiled in violence. These are the stories we do NOT see in the news. And it is this approach that makes" The Vase With The Many Coloured Marbles" an engaging, thoughtful, often tender tale that draws the sympathetic reader in. At the same time it manages to educate the reader about life, politics, and the struggle for equality in South Africa. It teaches without preaching, speaks without orating, educates without becoming academic.
Singer interweaves the in-depth tale of his two primary characters with the secondary characters and their backgrounds at the points at which they appear and become players in the plot. It is an unusual tactic, but in this book, one that works extremely well. Singer also adds sections of description of various places within South Africa that help the reader `see' in ways that make us feel we are there.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This evaluation is posted on behalf of Julia Petrakis, manager of the now defunct IndiePENdents.
The IndiePENdents ran from December 2011 until February 2016. Read more
This is a wonderful yet simple illustration of the struggle that South African disenfranchised communities suffered. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Shiraz Gani
This is a story about Emily Kelintjies, a woman of color who lived in South Africa when apartheid (known as 'segregation' in the USA), was still in force. Read morePublished on June 1, 2014 by Trish Jackson, Author
I enjoyed this book very much. It is a great story and keeps you turning the pages. Very well written for a light read.Published on March 2, 2014 by Heila
This is an absorbing book about several generations of South African "Coloured" striving to find a place in their culture. Their chosen way is through merchandising. Read morePublished on December 4, 2012 by Barbara Sherman
This is an intriguing book that starts in pre war South Africa with a young girl challenging the racial divide and bravely stepping across to live as a White, virtually abandoning... Read morePublished on May 18, 2012 by Ian Mathie