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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Reading Guide Apartheid Memoir

This reading guide to Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid: Growing Up White in Segregated South Africa can be printed and shared with book groups as a springboard to sparking thoughtful discussions.

Does your book group find reading guides a useful tool for sparking thoughtful and lively discussions? Do you as a book lover, looking for something new to read and discuss, find reading guides useful?
Let me know what you think and, if you use the reading guide, what question(s) inspired the liveliest conversation. Email to: cldatnow@me.com
Discussion Questions for Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid

1. The author clearly uses “garden” as a metaphor in the title of her memoir Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid. She also uses the metaphor of a wall. Why did you think she chose to use these symbols?
2. Datnow’s memoir mirrors the history of an era and a country. In it she weaves a tapestry that integrates the public and the private, the historical and the individual. How are her decisions influenced by historical events outside of her control? And how do her decisions reflect her personal character traits? Do you think you might have made the same or different decisions?
3. Through portraits of her family, the reader experiences the ordinary lives of people who lived during this era of apartheid (1948-1965). Do you think that the author’s depictions of the individual members of her family are honest, sympathetic, harsh, or something else? Have these portraits caused you to consider writing something similar for your family?
4. Discuss the book's structure and the author's use of language and writing style. How does the author draw the reader in and keep the reader engaged? Does the author convey her story with comedy, self-pity, or something else? Are there certain phrases or descriptions that especially attracted your attention?
5. In her memoir, Datnow attempts to explain her dawning realization of the inequities of apartheid. What details opened her eyes to the reality that “something was amiss?”
6. Given the values indoctrinated into us from childhood, why is it that some individuals discard or at least question these values?
7. What were the factors that lead Datnow and her husband to leave South Africa? Do you think the reasons she gives for her decision to leave are an honest portrayal of her motivations?
8. Does the author shed light on how the South African apartheid government was able to systematically impose increasingly repressive measures on its black citizens—and eventually its white citizens as well— although it was rooted in democratic ideals? Has this happened in a similar way in other countries?
9. What parallels can be drawn between the civil rights movement in the United States, particularly in the South.
10. The author writes, “The joke circulating at the time said that when Mrs. Katz really wanted to know what was going on in the country she called her sister in London or New York to find out.” What does this reveal about media coverage of political events in South Africa under apartheid?
11. What parallels can you draw between your life and that of the author?
12. Did reading the author’s memoir make you want to visit South Africa? Why or why not?

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