Beverley Naidoo was born in Johannesburg, where she was jailed as an anti-apartheid activist. She began her writing career in exile in England and is the author of The Other Side of Truth and Out of Bounds: Stories of Conflict and Hope (Harper Collins).
The big book of my South African childhood has to be The Diary of Anne Frank. I loved Anne’s bold, youthful honesty. Aren’t the grown-ups idiotic and stupid? Nor was she afraid to have opinions on bigger, political matters. Her voice was that of the child calling for justice. Why do some people have to starve, while there are surpluses rotting in other parts of the world?
There was, however, a terrible irony in my admiration for Anne. I was a white child in a racist society where white South Africans committed their own crimes against humanity. I cried over Anne without seeing the crimes of apartheid all around me. Only years later did I understand that Anne was not just writing about racism against Jews. She condemned racism itself—against anyone. I know she wouldn’t tolerate racism against Arabs. I still love the freshness and brave outspokenness of her voice, her despising of hypocrisy and passion for justice. Her diary helped to plant a seed in me.