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In 1950s Salisbury, now Harare, the segregated public toilets were designated thus: ‘Europeans only’; ‘Natives’; ‘Non-European other than Native’. Maud Blair belonged to that last category: neither this nor that, or perhaps everything else. It would take a well-researched history book to describe the backgrounds of these labels and a psychology book to explain how humans could invent a whole culture and way of life based on these interesting categories. In Between is both of these and more: the story about a young girl growing up in the former Rhodesia, a country in which the European rulers imagined that segregation of people (á la South African apartheid) was the perfect way of life – for everybody – and that it was sustainable. The story of this country has been told before, but seldom by those who were the direct offspring of both black and white parents in an apartheid system.
Maud Blair's birth certificate confirms who her mother was and where she was born, but all it says about her father is, 'European'. The label ‘other than Native’ entitled her to a range of privileges (though many were in theory only) that her 'Native' siblings did not receive. But as a ‘non-European’, there were limits. During her lifetime, that awkward ‘other than Native’ label was discarded, and people like Maud came to be known as Coloureds – an equally insane label, if not more so, but necessary to use here for the sake of clarity – a label brought to Rhodesia from South Africa by people of mixed heritage who came to teach in Coloured schools.
This the story of many people born and raised during the 1950s and 1960s who were labelled, categorised and largely hung out to dry by a political system invented for the benefit of one group of people and well policed to keep it so. How did children who were neither black nor white develop a sense of identity? What effect did this separation from their roots have on their relationships with their families? What were their aspirations and what were the State’s aspirations for them? And what about the fathers? Who was Maud's father? Where was he and why was he not helping her mother? This book follows Maud's quest to find him - a search that takes her to post-independence Zimbabwe via England.
Have things changed for Coloured people since independence? Where exactly do they belong – in the land of their fathers or the land of their mothers? This is the question Maud asks in this calm, clear and beautifully written memoir as she chugs along the rusty tracks of identity and wanders through the dark tunnels of belonging in the quest to find herself and understand where she really belongs.
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