You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town by Zoë Wicomb

You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town by Zoë Wicomb
You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town is among the only works of fiction to explore the experience of “Coloured” citizens in apartheid-era South Africa, whose mixed heritage traps them, as Bharati Mukherjee wrote in the New York Times, “in the racial crucible of their country.” Frieda Shenton, the daughter of Coloured parents in rural South Africa, is taught as a child to emulate whites: she is encouraged to learn correct English, to straighten her hair, and to do more than, as her father says, “peg out the madam’s washing.”

While still a self-conscious and overweight adolescent, Frieda is sent away from home to be among the first to integrate a prestigious Anglican high school in Cape Town, and finds herself in a city where racial lines are so strictly drawn that it is not possible to step out of one’s place.

At last, Frieda flees to England, only to return more than a decade later to a South Africa now in violent rebellion against apartheid—but still, seemingly, without a place for her. It is only as Frieda finds the courage to tell her “terrible stories” that she at last begins to create her own place in a world where she has always felt herself an exile.

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