Monday, April 1, 2013

Book notes: Growing up outside of the norm


These feelings of not-belonging were positive for me, not negative....I was given such a sense of confidence by my family, in my family [that I] experienced the sense of difference as an honor...  - Denise Levertov



Children are marked by their parents' beliefs and choices. Perhaps nowhere more so than when the parents are at odds with the government, the mainstream, etc. I recall reading that Nelson Mandel felt great sadness at the toll his activism had taken on his children and the children of his colleagues. As someone who grew up proud of the convictions and actions of my parents and aware of the toll it exacted on everyone in the family, I've always been alert to others with similar childhoods.

Just this week I've noticed this echoed by several, now adult, children who grew up amidst their parents' activism and/or their parents being branded the enemy and the repercussions that followed. It includes Nadine Gordimer (anti-Apartheid activism/South Africa), Kati Marton (journalists/Hungary), Alexandra Fuller (white supremacism/Rhodesia) and Tony Kahn (McCarthy Blacklists/USA). And, of course, I know it's true for the children of King, Jr., Evers, Union activists, AIM members and so many throughout the world who pay a price along with their parents. As someone emerging from that experience as well as a therapist, I'm interested in how these children (as youth and adults) perceive and integrate these experiences into who they are and who they wish to become. This interest includes the children of economic immigrants - those who come to the USA without the required papers, women who rarely see their children because they must nurse/nanny in other countries, etc.


Today I came across writer Beverly Naidoo who turned her attention to this topic in her in The Other Side of Truth which explores the impact of a Nigerian's journalist's anti-goivernment writing on his children. Also of interest is her Journey to Jo-burg set in her homeland of South Africa from which she was exiled for many years. Not surprisingly, the book was banned from the country until the collapse of Apartheid. When I retire from having to make money, I'd considering working with children (youth and/or adult) who have had these experiences. Often I find them to be insightful and inspiring people - with a more nuanced experience of belonging, home and family.


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