Poppie's contented childhood ends when she marries a migrant worker and moves to the alarming world of Cape Town. No sooner has she established her roots there than the authorities want her and her children to go to the Ciskei, her husband's homeland. He, as a laborer, may stay.
For ten years Poppie resists the pass laws--which lie at the heart of South Africa's legally enforced policy of racial separation, or apartheid--winning limited extensions to her permit to remain in the Cape. The day comes, however, when she is forced to "resettle" in a raw, remote township.
Though this book spans the historic Sharpeville and Soweto uprisings, it is never strident. It makes its points dispassionately, becoming the unsentimentalized celebration of a tenacious spirit.
The woman here called Poppie--who in real life lives in the eastern Cape area of South Africa, center of the country's black resistance movement against apartheid--went to Elsa Joubert for advice after the 1960s Cape Town riots. Several years of taped conversation yielded Poppie's story, which remains in Elsa Joubert's retelling remarkably true in tone and detail to the firsthand account. It is Poppie's voice we hear, the inflections, repetitions, and colloquialisms of her speech faithfully represented.