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Excerpt from Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Out of Shadows

by Jason Wallace

Out of Shadows
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2011, 282 pages
    Dec 2011, 282 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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Print Excerpt

And he made a silly laughing sound as if it were something that might actually happen.

He never did meet Mr. Mugabe. For me, it was to be a very different story.


We pulled off the main road and between huge stone pillars that bore Haven School’s name. Up a willow-lined drive, then down and around to where the boardinghouses were. A jostle of vehicles had already filled the small parking lot, a reassuring reminder of life beyond the grounds. The baking January sun glinted off windshields.

My father stopped the engine and sat a moment without speaking, looking up at Selous House—my house—like it was a monument or something.

“Named after Frederick Courteney Selous, one of Rhodesia’s founding figures,” he said at last, as if we hadn’t stopped talking about it. “All five boardinghouses in the school are named after Rhodesian founders. Giving names of important people to buildings and places is just one way the white government asserted power.”

He gave me a meaningful nod.

“But that’s in the past now. Colonialism is an outdated ideal that was never going to work. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t simply plant a flag and claim rights over someone else’s land. This is Africa, for Africans. And black people had every right to rise up and use aggression.”

Even though most of the other parents and boys around us were white, I started to feel even more nervous about being here, and I wondered if he knew how he was making me feel. I opened my mouth to speak.

“So was that what the war was about?” I asked. “Land?”

This is what it was about,” he replied, finding and pointing to a black family standing isolated on the grass. The boy was small and looking at his shoes while his parents tried to appear relaxed. “The winds of change. Opportunity for all. Boys like him wouldn’t have been allowed in a school like this before independence. But you can’t suppress people because of the color of their skin. Or at all, for that matter. Do you think it was right?”

“No,” I said.

“It was utterly, utterly wrong.” I wasn’t sure my father had heard me. “White people should be ashamed.”

He climbed out and walked enthusiastically toward the family. Soon, the three grown-ups laughed, and I noticed some of the white parents glancing and shaking their heads.

My mother sat silently in the front fanning her face. She’d cried almost the whole way here.

“It won’t be so bad,” she said, a line she’d fed me on and off all through Christmas—I’d felt safe then, despite the weirdness of unwrapping presents in the heat, as though the start of the school year might never find me. But it had. “You’ll make lots of new friends. You won’t have time to be sad.”

We sat and watched my father. Two tall senior boys greeted him politely as they passed. My father puffed himself up and stroked his beard, and responded in the voice he saved for the telephone. He looked strange today, wrapped in one of his London suits as if he was on business. All the other fathers were in short-sleeved shirts, shorts, desert boots, and long socks. Their wives wore floral-print dresses like ones I’d seen on old British TV programs.

“You mustn’t blame your father,” my mother spoke again. “He has a very different sort of background. His parents never had money. He feels very strongly that you should take the opportunities he never had.”

She dabbed her nostrils with a tissue.

“The Embassy has been very kind in offering to pay the fees. We could certainly never afford a school like this on your father’s salary.”

Excerpted from Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace. Copyright © 2011 by Jason Wallace. Excerpted by permission of Holiday House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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