Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa

Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa

by Stephanie Urdang


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Stephanie Urdang was born in Cape Town, South Africa, into a white, Jewish family staunchly opposed to the apartheid regime. In 1967, at the age of twenty-three, no longer able to tolerate the grotesque iniquities and oppression of apartheid, she chose exile and emigrated to the United States. There she embraced feminism, met anti-apartheid and solidarity movement activists, and encountered a particularly American brand of racial injustice. Urdang also met African revolutionaries such as Amilcar Cabral, who would influence her return to Africa and her subsequent journalism. In 1974, she trekked through the liberation zones of Guinea-Bissau during its war of independence; in the 1980’s, she returned repeatedly to Mozambique and saw how South Africa was fomenting a civil war aimed to destroy the newly independent country. From the vantage point of her activism in the United States, and from her travels in Africa, Urdang tracked and wrote about the slow, inexorable demise of apartheid that led to South Africa’s first democratic elections, when she could finally return home.

Urdang’s memoir maps out her quest for the meaning of home and for the lived reality of revolution with empathy, courage, and a keen eye for historical and geographic detail. This is a personal narrative, beautifully told, of a journey traveled by an indefatigable exile who, while yearning for home, continued to question where, as a citizen of both South Africa and the United States, she belongs. “My South Africa!” she writes, on her return in 1991, after the release of Nelson Mandela, “How could I have imagined for one instant that I could return to its beauty, and not its pain?”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781583676677
Publisher: Monthly Review Press
Publication date: 11/22/2017
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7

Prologue: Mother Mountain 11

Part 1

1 "Such a Show of Power!" 19

2 "It Makes No Sense" 24

3 "You Have to Learn to Think for Yourself" 28

4 By the Stroke of a Pen 38

5 "You Can Make More of a Difference Outside" 45

6 Slowly, Haltingly I Became Acclimatized 52

7 Anti-Apartheid Activist 59

8 We Took Our Cues from the Liberation Movements 67

9 "Well, It's My Turn Now!" 80

Part 2

10 "Welcome to Cairo!" 89

11 "Visits Like Yours Build Bridges" 96

12 A Bona Fide Journalist 104

13 "We Can't Stop Until It's Over" 110

14 Can I Take My Inner Calm Back with Me? 118

15 A Conscientious Observer 127

Part 3

16 "I Will Not Have to Prove It Again" 135

17 "There's Been a Coup!" 148

18 "We Have to Fight Twice" 151

19 "You Will Leave from Bissau" 157

20 "Now I Need to Believe in Myself" 165

21 "She Doesn't Know What She Fought For" 171

22 "This Very Day Is South Africa's Pidgiguiti" 179

23 "I Am Proud of You" 183

Part 4

24 Across the Border from Home-Home 193

25 "Now We Have Hope" 202

26 "I Will Give My Own Life If Necessary" 209

27 The Ripple Effect of the War 217

28 "Define Your Terms, Comrade!" 224

29 "I Am a Visitor to My Past" 227

30 A Serious, Full-Time Job in the Movement 235

31 "How Much Does She Weigh?" 246

32 "What About the People?" 250

33 "Night Is Turning into Day" 255

Part 5

34 "Are You Planning to Return?" 267

35 No Longer the "Skunk of the World" 274

36 "Apartheid Is Over but the Struggle Is Not" 277

37 "A Deception" 284

38 Finding Home 288

Epilogue: "The Fabric of the Nation Is Splitting at the Seams" 298

Resources 303

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