A literary memoir from a gay white South African, coming of age at the end of apartheid in the late 1970s.
Raised in the middle of a game preserve where his father worked, Glen Retief's nuclear family was a preserve of its own against chaotic forces just outside its borders: a childhood friend whose uncle led a death squad, while his cultured grandfather quoted Shakespeare at barbecues, meanwhile abusing Glen's sister in an antique-filled, tobacco-scented living room.
But it was at age twelve when Glen left his warm, loving family to go to boarding school, where they could no longer protect him from his racially divided country's storehouse of violence, that he was truly exposed to human cruelty and frailty. When the prefects were caught torturing younger boys, they invented "the jack bank," where underclassmen could save beatings, earn interest on their deposits, and draw on them later to atone for their supposed infractions. Retief writes movingly of the complicated emotions and politics in this punitive all-male world, and of how he navigated them, even as he began to realize that his sexuality was different from his peers.
Glen Retief is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Susquehanna University. He has been published in a variety of literary journals and quarterlies and awarded a James Michener Writing Fellowship and the AWP Intro Journals Award for Creative Nonfiction. He lives in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.