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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel


South Africa Birmingham Alabama Connection

South Africa and Birmingham, Alabama Shared Histories

Six years ago, we were delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate Mandela Day with exchange students from my hometown, Johannesburg, South Africa, at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. The joyous crowd in historic Kelly Ingram Park, the site of the Freedom marches in 1960s, swayed and clapped to the rhythm of the Zulu dancers and a choir, regaling the audience with stirring freedom songs and traditional dances.

Kelley Ingram Park


Nadine Gordimer Remembered

Thank You Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer, renowned South African writer, political activist, and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature passed away, 13 July, 2014 at the age of ninety. Gordimer authored fifteen novels and a dozen short story collections. For me, this sad news resonates with special meaning. Although I spoke to her only once, briefly over the telephone, there are intriguing coincidences between her origins and mine.

 Nadine Gordimer was born in 1923, in a dusty mining town near my hometown of Johannesburg. She was in her twenties during WWII, and when the South African apartheid government was voted into power in 1948. In my memoir,
Behind The Walled Garden of Apartheid: Growing Up White in Segregated South Africa, I write: Read More...

Legacy of Apartheid

The Unintended Consequences of Apartheid

The passing of Nelson Mandela prompted me to reflect on how the great statesman’s had changed the trajectory of my life. See blog: Mandela Influenced Our Lives. In 1965, partly as a result of the unrest caused by the struggle against apartheid, spearheaded by Mandela, we made the momentous decision to leave South Africa, the country of our birth, to make a new home in the United States. At the time we believed that South Africa was on the brink of a bloody revolution. This critical decision spawned unfortunate consequences. A cousin, who still lives and works in South Africa, poignantly summarizes the situation


Mandela Influenced Our Lives

How Nelson Mandela Influenced My Life

Where were you when you heard that the great statesman and world leader, Nelson Mandela had passed away? I was in my car, listening to the BBC from my iPad. An immediate sense of regret and sadness washed over me for the loss of a man like Nelson Mandela. As I drove down the congested highway, I began to think about how Mandela had influence my life. In my mind, I was transported back to my childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa, reminding me how apartheid had wreaked havoc with the lives of political leaders and ordinary people I had known, like the Greek immigrant I will call Mr. Kakoris.  Read More...

The Legacy of George Wallace

The Ironic Legacy of Alabama Governor, George Wallace
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Claire Datnow with Dr. Angela Lewis, professor of political science at UAB


Last Chance for Justice by Thorne

Guest Blogger T.K. Thorne

It is my honor to introduce T.K. Thorne as my guest blogger for September. Teresa retired as a captain of the Birmingham Police Department and currently serves as executive director of CAP, a business improvement district in downtown Birmingham. Both careers have provided fodder for her writing. Her fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have been published in various venues and garnered several awards.

Guest Blogger

Jo Kittinger our Guest Blogger
It is my great honor to host Jo Kittinger as our guest blogger. Congratulations to Jo for being honored with a Christopher Award. Next month she will travel to New York to receive the medal -- that's amazing! The Christopher Awards celebrate books, films and TV that affirm the highest values of the human spirit. Read More...

50th Anniversary Civil Rights Movement Birmingham

Pass on the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "Letter From Birmingham Jail," and other pivotal events in the struggle for civil rights. I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa at the height of Apartheid. Some forty years ago I made Birmingham, Alabama my new home. What ironic twist of fate had brought me these two cities marked by racial strife?

Apartheid Memoir Comes Full Circle

When my husband, Boris Datnow, moved our family—my two sons Allen and Steven and my daughter Robyn—to Birmingham to take a position at UAB Medical School, the first thought that popped into my head was: Why on Earth has a girl from Johannesburg, South Africa, ended up in Birmingham, Alabama? Read More...

South African Apartheid Memoir

Meeting Long-Lost Cousins in the Belgium Beer Garden

I’m sitting at a rough wooden picnic table at the Belgium Beer Garden in Melbourne, Australia, waiting to meet my two long-last third cousins that I have never meet, because of a family feud. They have come here to share more than a beer; it seems they have a bone to pick with me—a really big one. All around us young men in tank tops and cut off shorts, and young women in mini skirts and skimpy sundresses, are happily chugging down bottles of beer and laughing raucously. We old folks are chomping on succulent cheese “krantsky” sausages and sipping apple cider with a kick in it. Thank goodness my husband, Boris, my sister, Bea, and my brother-in-law, Mike, have bravely agreed to accompany me to this curious family reunion.

South African Memoir

Connections to other times and places
Publishing a book is like placing a message inside a bottle and tossing it into the ocean; you never know what or whom the book may encounter on its journey. I feel fortunate to have connected with interesting people through my book, Behind The Walled Garden of Apartheid, and, of course, the converse is true; the books I read vicariously connect me with fascinating people, places and ideas. Read More...

Nelson Mandela Day and South African Apartheid Memoir

We were delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate Mandela Day with exchange students from Johannesburg, South Africa at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Read More...

South African Memoir Comes Full Circle

What happened 39 years ago and 8,512 miles away came full circle yesterday, July 13, 2011. You see, I left Johannesburg, South Africa and found myself in Birmingham, Alabama—all those years and many, many miles away. Read More...

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:

Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights

Helen Suzman’s memoir, In No Uncertain Terms, recalls her courageous 36 years in South Africa's parliament in readable and meticulous detail. The preface by Nelson Mandela shows the respect many people have for Suzman. Those with little background in the history of apartheid will gain an understanding the complexity of society in during Suzman’s political career Read More...

African Memoir

I received an interesting letter about African memoirs. Part of the letter reads:
“Do you happen to know other memoirs written by black Africans?  I’d so like to read stories from their perspective.”
Also see my Amazon List for African Memoirs

African Authors

I received this interesting letter. Any suggestions for adding memoirs to my link are welcome. (e-mail Read More...

Memoir Apartheid South Africa

Growing Up White in Segregated South Africa

Apartheid Memoir

Having just published my memoir, Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid: Growing Up White In Segregated South Africa, I am delighted that Have You Heard from Johannesburg, a seven-part documentary about the decades-long fight to dismantle that cruel regime, is showing at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Apartheid in South Africa ended with the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, now after almost two decades it is critical to document the history of that era from the viewpoint of those who lived through it, before it is lost. More info and times showing visit Birmingham Civil Rights Institute