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St. John grew up in 1970s Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, in a setting she describes as a paradise. Her family lived on a farm surrounded by exotic plants and a game preserve filled with impala, giraffe, ostrich, and monkeys. But all was not calm and peaceful. Rhodesia was under attack by Marxist terrorists who crossed the border from neighboring countries, and white-owned farms were their prime targets.
Consequently, fear was a part of the fabric of her life. A security gate surrounded the house, and when St. John's father passed through it after dark, her family waited, terrified that he'd be ambushed and killed. In fact, St. John's own bedroom had once been occupied by a classmate of hers who was killed in the house.
Many years later St. John would gain a new understanding of the atrocities she'd known as a child. "The war of freedom against the Communist terrorists was actually someone else's war of freedom," she writes. "We were the terrorists. Our heroes were not heroes at all, they were evil racists. Only black people were allowed to be heroes." The shock of this knowledge stripped St. John of her identity as an African.
Writing about her family both during the war and after, in Rainbow's End she depicts with crystalline clarity the wide boundaries of childhood innocence, and the bitter aftertaste of adult disillusionment. (Summer 2007 Selection)