Today I have an excerpt for you from the book Across Great Divides by Monique Roy.
Across Great Divides is a timeless, World War II story of the upheavals of war, the power of family, and the resiliency of human spirit. When Hitler comes to power in 1933, one Jewish family refuses to be destroyed and defies the Nazis only to come up against another struggle—confronting Apartheid in South Africa.
As Jews, life becomes increasingly difficult for identical twin sisters Eva and Inge under the oppressive and anti-Semitic laws of Nazi Germany. After witnessing the horrors of Kristallnacht, they flee their beloved homeland, finally finding a new home for themselves in the beautiful country of South Africa; however, just as things begin to feel safe, their new home becomes caught up in its own battles of bigotry and hate under the National Party’s demand for apartheid. Will Eva and Inge ever be allowed to live in peace? Across Great Divides is a tale of one family’s struggle to survive in a world tainted with hate, and the power of love that held them all together.
Situated in the city bowl of Cape Town, at the foot of Table Mountain, and within sight of the docks, District Six was an inner-city, lively community made up of former slaves, artisans, merchants, priests, fisherman, teachers, midwives, and other immigrants, as well as Muslims brought to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company during its administration of the Cape Colony. A microcosm of clogged streets, filled with butcher shops and bakeries, churches and mosques, Victorian houses, markets, and bars. While it was home to a mostly coloured community, it was also comprised a large Jewish population.
The community of people came from all over the world and different corners of South Africa, and together created a rich mix of distinctive cultures, all living in harmony. But a blighted area existed among this community. The slum was dangerous, rife with gangsters and drug abuse. This den of vices was full of immoral activities, like gambling, drinking, and prostitution, and residents were prone to social ills, poverty and alienation.
Zoe and her daughter Zola lived in the slum in a corrugated iron shack. That was all they could afford and the shacks they lived among almost touched each other. Each shack was not just made from plain sheets of metal, they were adorned with colorful rope and plastic bags, anything the residents could get their hands on to personalize their homes.
Homemade shops, barbershops and salons, and car repair shops, housed in tiny tin huts, were also vibrantly decorated. And the secrets of the community were hidden in their walls. People socialized at the busy shebeens, illegal bars run out of sterile matchbox houses, and at the spaza—small, informal shops that operated out of homes—that sold cigarettes, soft drinks, sorghum beer and milk stout, as well as necessities, like maize meal, bread and sugar.
Life was lived on the streets, but the street they lived on was not really a street. It was an unpaved, dirt road, marked by blood, sweat and tears. It breathed in the sadness and hopelessness from the heavy footsteps of the residents.
Every day Zoe thanked God they were alive. In the warm summer months, their tin shed was like an oven. In the damp, cold winters, they froze and rain water flooded into their home. They shared a dirty toilet with a few other families, and there were no showers. Instead, they washed with water from a standpipe poured into a plastic bucket.
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Thank you for reading.
The Stationery Geekette x