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My Son's Story

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My Son's Story

My Son's Story is a complexly woven tale of struggle and disillusionment that begins with a painful discovery and travels through time to paint the portrait of a South African family fighting against the divisive power of apartheid. More specifically, it is the story of a lie that turns a young boy into a writer and the story of a man's evolution as a political activist. Will, the narrator, tells the story of his father, nicknamed "Sonny," once a "colored" schoolteacher and later a hero in the struggle against South African apartheid. The story is a retrospective account of Sonny's life. It follows roughly chronological order; however the spark for Will's story is an event that happened at age fifteen that changed his perspective on his father.

The opening sections describe this catalytic event. Playing hooky from school, Will goes to a movie theatre near Johannesburg and is shocked to see his father there with a white woman, Hannah Plowman. Plowman is a white woman who works for the International Organization for Human Rights; like Sonny, she is a fellow-militant against racism and State violence in South Africa. She provided emotional support to Sonny's family during his trial for anti-government activities. Later, she stayed in touch with him during his incarceration. At the doorway to the theatre, Will realizes, with confusion and bitterness, that he is seeing his father for the first time (but by no means for the last time) in the company of his mistress. Sadly, Sonny asks his son Will to cover for him, to lie about what he has seen. Will agrees and from then on his guilt about conspiring in a lie and anger at his father's deception combine to embitter Will and to color his retrospective account of his father's life.

Born the gifted son of an upholsterer, Sonny is victimized by the patently unequal educational system of South Africa. His mixed parentage lets him attend slightly better schools than his black counterparts, but the fact he is "colored" bars him from even using public libraries. Driven by his thirst for knowledge, Sonny buys what books he can and constantly peruses them. His library includes novels by Franz Kafka and the complete works of William Shakespeare. Because he intelligent and well read, Sonny gains a position as a schoolteacher in a respectable school.

Sonny's wife Aila is also colored -- of mixed African and Indian descent -- and is exquisitely beautiful. The attractive, intelligent couple earns the respect of their community through their hard work (he in teaching, she in charitable society work). They have two children -- Baby, Sonny's favorite, and Will, named after Shakespeare. Although he is not allowed to teach in the best schools or universities, Sonny is relatively content in his middle-class life and he believes that, gradually,

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