Full of the sounds and smells of an African childhood during the 1970s and 1980s, this engrossing memoir of growing up in South Africa captures the moral nuances as well as the horrors of the apartheid era. It is also a remarkable account of a father's and sons conflicts as a white family during these tumultuous years.
Don McRae grew up in a South Africa where his father would call the black men he met 'boy' and where his mother insisted that their black servants used tin mugs, plates and cutlery as they ate the family's left-over food in the backyard of their grand suburban property. The McRaes, like so many white people, seemed oblivious to the violent injustices of apartheid. As the author grew up, the political differences between father and son widened and when Don refused to join up for National Service, risking imprisonment or exile overseas, the two were torn apart. It wasn't until years later that the author discovered that the father with whom he had fought so bitterly had later in his life transformed himself into a political hero. Risking everything one dark and rainy night Ian McRae travelled secretly into the black township of Soweto to meet members of Nelson Mandela's then banned African National Congress to discuss ways to bring power to black South Africa. He had no political ambitions; he was just a man trying to replace the worst in himself with something better. Under Our Skinis a memoir of these tumultuous years in South Africa's history, as told through the author's family story. It offers an intimate and penetrating perspective on life under apartheid, and tells a story of courage and fear, hope and desolation and love and pain, especially between a father and his son.