THE UMBRELLA TREE (Penguin, 1990, $6.95) by Rose Zwi recasts as fiction the anguish and despair in the lives of black South Africans during the 1970″s. In a poignant description of their daily struggles, Zwi explores the relationship between blacks and whites against a backdrop of oppression and misunderstanding. Freda (“after fifty years in Africa…! still count in Yiddish”) draws on her understanding of anti-Semitism to build a coalition between blacks and whites. The demise of the relationship between her son. Tony (“Jewish, intellectual, passionate and politically committed”) and Louise, a white Afrikaaner, serves as a metaphor for the impending Soweto riots of 1976 which are the culmination of the book. Despite a limp story line and stereotypical characterizations, this novella has a powerful message.
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