If you don’t already know this about my writing, I write about tough issues, the most difficult of which is freedom. With me, the devil is indeed in the details. I immigrated to the US in 1980 and belong to a generation of white South Africans who grew up disagreeing with the apartheid era. I understand why, in America, I don’t get the benefit of the doubt from people who don’t know me—I’m sure I’m silently blamed for that repressive, inhumane system.
The assumption is if I lived there for twenty-seven years, I was part of the problem, not part of the solution.
A upside down version of the legal presumption of innocence is that, in American society, immigrants, foreigners, and outsiders are guilty until proved innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. Who knows what they did in their motherland, goes the argument. If reasonable doubt therefore lingers, the accused is condemned to the fringes of society. And many are.
People would not know that my mother speaks several African languages and so I was brought up with an awareness of the inequity of the system from an early age. At university I belonged to SAVS (The South African Volunteer Services) and joined trips to build schools and clinics. Later, I volunteered at the Venice Free Clinic in LA and crafted a program to educate patients on hypertension. Even today, I volunteer with the Peconic Land Trust to help farmers stay farming and not get squeezed out by rampant commercialization and urban sprawl.
So, I don’t take it personally, and I don’t blame people for falsely suspecting I am racist. As testament to the largess of Americans, I have lived in the US for forty-one years, and have never been directly accused of being a bigot. However, the implication is always there —even if it’s only in my head. My response is to live a life of integrity while continuing to protest every form of injustice, while keeping an open mind to new forms of expression from intersectional activists and others.
What makes it challenging for me as a fiction writer, is that I craft nuanced stories and will always keep the promise I make to myself and to my readers that my books will not take on moralistic overtones.
I will stay true to the story regardless of what facets and flaws it unearths. For me, there is no alternative, unless I want to be despised for not being intellectually honest. The subtext of my stories must always show that tolerance and diversity are as important as the affirmation of life itself. That burden will always be my privilege to bear.
For me this trilogy is a body of work that I honestly didn’t know I would complete.
Please understand it is not a dissertation on all the subtle nuances of what it means to be truly free.
I think I will always grapple with that definition. However, as a fiction writer,
I have the freedom to tell stories that expose certain aspects of freedom and show characters
who must struggle with their conscience and their own idea of freedom to stay alive.
That is the choice I have made to define who I am as a writer. If this trilogy proves to you that I believe in freedom for all,
then I have done my work, and along the way
have told some damn good stories!
I hope you agree.
This is a stand-alone novel, however characters from books one and two reappear in this story.
This is a stand-alone novel, however the characters of Allison and Sipho reappear in The Drowning Bay.
This is a stand-alone novel, however the characters of Raf and Gida reappear in The Drowning Bay.