An extraordinary, literary memoir from a gay white South African, coming of age at the end of apartheid in the late 1970s
Glen Retief’s childhood was at once recognizably ordinary and brutally unusual. Raised in the middle of a game preserve where his father worked, Retief’s warm nuclear family was a preserve of its own, against chaotic forces just outside its borders: a childhood friend was also the leader of a death squad, while his cultured grandfather quoted Shakespeare over cocktails and abused Glen’s sister at bedtime.
But it was when Retief was sent to boarding school, that he was truly exposed to human cruelty and frailty. When the prefects were caught torturing younger boys, they invented "the jack bank,” where underclassmen could save beatings and draw on them later to atone for their supposed infractions. Retief writes movingly of the complicated emotions and politics in this punitive all-male world, and of how he navigated them, even as he began to realize that his sexuality was different than his peers’.