Longstaff – In the Shadow of the Dragon’s Back

Forthcoming September 1; review copies available August 1

About In the Shadow of the Dragon’s Back: A Young American Girl in South Africa During the Early Years of Apartheid

The book is the story of a young American girl living in South Africa during the early years of apartheid (1948-1960). One of six children of a Swedenborgian minister who was sent to South Africa to establish a theological school for Africans, the author reaches back into this unique time and place in an effort to rediscover the culture that influenced her own adult attitudes. Rather than following a strictly chronological format, the story is laid out in a series of verbal snapshots, supported by photographs. Family life, experienced through the eyes of a child living in a complex environment, contrasts with the lives of those who were impacted by the institutionalized racism of apartheid. Examples of the Acts of apartheid at the end of each chapter include news articles, interviews, and commentary. Deep childhood fears of some unnamed threat are represented by home invasions, wildfires, and the cry of a hyena in the mountains. The mountains are dangerous, they present a great barrier, but they can be conquered. After returning permanently to America as a teenager—through a confusing and sometimes painful process of discussion and observation—the author uncovers those artifacts of the past that inform her place in the world today.

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About the Author

Rachel Longstaff grew up in South Africa, where she lived with her family in the city of Durban on the east coast of KwaZulu Natal. She has a degree in English from Northwestern University and an MS in Library and Information Science from Drexel University in Philadelphia. She has worked as an academic librarian for twenty years, first at the Swedenborg Library in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, and later at Saint Leo University in Florida. She and her husband, Alan, have four grown children. They have lived in The Hague, in Toronto, and in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Now retired and living in Florida, Rachel enjoys reading, writing, cycling, and gardening.