Our Generation : Review by Antjie Krog (South African poet, academic, and writer)
This is one of the stories one always knew existed, but never expected it to surface with such force of tenderness and beauty; such power of self-discovery; such courageous pain. Every story of neglected parts of South Africa’s liberation found Zubeida Jaffer.
Our Generation: Review by Nadine Gordimer (South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature)
There’s a historian’s history: and there’s history as lived and made everyday by the people. Those in pursuit of human justice who, as Zubeida Jaffer writes “puts their jobs on the line. Those who helped without seeking glory or any financial reward. People of all colours, creeds, shapes and sizes.”
Those who put on line: their lives. She is one of them and her story as a woman of Cape Muslim background, a journalist and an activist in the South African struggle, a mother bearing and rearing a child while enduring harassment, torture and prison, is vivid, essential testimony in that compliation of alternative history, invaluable to us, which can come only from those remarkable people to whom South Africa owes its freedom.
Our Generation: Review by Athol Williams (Author and co-founder of Read to Rise)
The autobiography, ‘Our Generation’ by Zubeida Jaffer made me cry. It tells of the personal anguish of a woman following her conviction to fight against Apartheid and the immense personal sacrifices she had to make, particularly how it strained her relationship with her young daughter. It is a moving story and reminds us of the people who fought for our freedom and also it is a reminder for us to be bold and courageous in our continued fights for justice.
Published in The Witness
October 10, 2003
Confronting Demons of the past
I have a friend who spent two weeks in mid-winter sleeping in the mid-winter sleeping on the cement floor of the Plessislaer Police station in Edenvale – accommodation courtesy of the South African Security Police.
He carries a painful legacy from that time. Every winter he suffers with deliberating pains in his back – a form fibrositis that started in Plessislaer that winter of 1986. A condition that leaves him irritable and short with those around him.
Another friend never speaks about his beating by the security police, saying others suffered far more than he did. He remains locked in a shell of insecurity. His children mirror his condition that leaves him irritable and short with those around him.
Another friend never speaks about his beating by the security police police, saying others suffered far more than he did. He remains locked in a shell of insecurity. His children mirror his condition- they lack self-confidence. These and other sad recollections came to mind as I turned the last page of Jaffer’s moving memoir of her political activism in the Western Cape during the turbulent eighties and nineties. From being an impersonal reviewer I found myself emotionally involved in her story. You see, I am a member of the “Our Generation” that is the title of her book.
A journalist and struggle activist, Jaffer was repeatedly detained by the security police, held in solitary confinement, tortured and beaten. One of her spells in detention was while she was pregnant with her baby daughter, Ruschka.
Jaffer explores these incidents and other events of the time and the impact they had on various facets on her life – as a daughter, a mother, a wife and a member of the Cape Muslim community. She talks about fears and anxieties of pain and falling apart. Most revealing was her realisation that much of the trauma was buried deep in her subconscious, affecting her life in ways that she was unaware of.
Ultimately, it is an uplifting book because of her potent awareness of her need to confront the demons of her past so that her daughter Ruschka grows up free of the tormented baggage carried by her parent.
In opening up her own life, Jaffer has created the space for others of her generation to acknowledge and deal with their own pain.
Her memoir poses a powerful reminder that as a nation we have recently emerged from a dark and painful past and that many ordinary people still carry the scars from these traumatic times.