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A Life's Mosaic: The Autobiography Of Phyllis Ntantala
by Phyllis Ntantala
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From Publishers Weekly
Ntantala has written a rather dry account of a vivid and interesting life. Born to a well-to-do black family in the Transkei, in South Africa, she describes her awakening social conscience in the 1940s and her subsequent activities in the teachers' union. But she matter-of-factly retraces her experiences while revealing little about her emotional states. Writing of how much she and her husband expected of their children intellectually, she posits that the children "lived in a world of ideas." She makes much of the fact that she came from a well-off family, and hints at a struggle between her principles and her social position, particularly in a section about how her children always forced her and her husband to treat their employees better. There is also some underlying conflict with her more straitlaced husband, who, she says, in one of her few blunt moments, "never was a lover, but a husband," but these tensions are touched upon only briefly. Some excitement builds when the family arrives in the U.S. in the 1960s, and the comparisons between racism in South Africa and in Madison, Wis., where her husband taught, are telling, but marred by Ntantala's frustrating habit of drifting from one subject to the next.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Like Trotsky, I did not leave home with the proverbial one-and-six in my pocket. I come from a family of landed gentry . . . [and] could have chosen the path of comfort and safety, for even in apartheid South Africa, there is still that path for those who will collaborate. But I chose the path of struggle and uncertainty."--from the Preface
Born into the small social elite of black South Africa, Phyllis Ntantala did not face the grinding poverty so familiar to other South African blacks. Instead, her struggle was that of a creative, articulate woman seeking fulfillment and justice in a land that tried to deny her both.
The widow of Xhosa writer and historian A.C. Jordan and mother of African National Congress leader Z. Pallo Jordan, she and her family experienced a period of tremendous change in South Africa and also in the United States, where they moved during the 1960s. She discovers similarities in the two countries, including the arrogance of power.
Anchored in history and culture, A Life's Mosaic sharply reveals the world and the people of South Africa. As the story of a political exile, it represents the dislocations that have caused universal suffering in the second half of the twentieth century. Phyllis Ntantala discusses the cruelty of racism, the cynicism of political solutions, and the hopes of those who live in both a world of exile and a world of dreams.
About the Author
Phyllis Ntantala was born in 1920 in Cape Province, South Africa. She attended the University of Fort Hare and was a teacher in South Africa and in the U.S. She now lives in Taylor, Michigan.
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