New Church Life NCL May/June 2018 - Page 56

n e w c h u r c h l i f e : m ay / j u n e 2 0 1 8 first 20 covering the family’s arrival with the author as a preschool child and continuing through the first dozen years of apartheid until 1960 when all the Odhner children returned to the United States. The final two chapters follow the author’s life through her university years at Northwestern where she continued to immerse herself in African history and culture studies and her later career as a librarian. The conclusion reflects upon a return visit to South Africa in 1991 that coincided with the final dismantling of apartheid. Bryn Athyn College Theological School Dean, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Dibb, who served in South Africa for 14 years, contributes a warm preface. Especially effective is the unceasing crossing between the often creative and happy family and church life and the looming social tensions that grew year upon year with apartheid’s litany of controlling laws. The family’s empathy and friendships with native Africans vie with anxiety and alarm over the ever- present police state scrutiny of the church’s activities. Every chapter registers both worlds as Christmas cookies are baked amid the promulgations of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, mountain hikes are undertaken while teachers are silenced and university employees arrested, delightful music and singing lessons are sounded as the Natives Laws Amendment Act that severely prohibited public movements by native Africans became law. Longstaff ably assists readers to enter the complexity of contradictions – beauty and humiliation, privilege and disenfranchisement, black and white. The space created is ever timely, fruitful for contemplating an outsized scale of life on history’s backdrop. The metaphor supplied by the flat serrated mountain range that looks like a dragon’s back is quite apt, as is the shadow it casts. (Published by Culicidae Press, 2017. https://www.culicidaepress.com/category/books/ Paperback $12.95, hard cover with dust jacket $36) The Rev. Dr. James F. Lawrence is Dean of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies and Assistant Professor of Spirituality and Historical Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Contact: jlawrence@psr.edu 232