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Magona grew up in South Africa -- mostly in Cape Town -- in the 50s and 60s, when it was ruled by apartheid. Still, she had a happy childhood; her parents were uneducated but determined that their children would have opportunities.What I didnt expect: Magona is funny. She tells her story lightly, not treading too heavily on the times when things were rough, not afraid to poke fun at anyone -- or at herself, both as a child and as an adult. Shes biting, too, when it comes to apartheid, and to the laws meant to keep black Africans down.The book covers only her early life -- up until she was in her early twenties -- and Id love to know more about how she ended up in the U.S. and writing the way she does. But I suppose thats why she wrote Forced to Grow...Anyway, Ill let the book speak for itself; I folded down a ton of corners as I read:There was never any question of taking any of the rag dolls to Cape Town with me. Even I knew it would have been ridiculous to take a rag doll to the big big faraway town where there were many many people who were white just like the white people of the shop; where there were tens and tens and tens of motor cars, maybe hundreds, on tar-covered roads; where everyone went by bus or train even if they were going half the distance we traveled on foot going to church every Sunday. Where there were no mud huts but brick and cement and stone houses, their windows made of glass not wood. And the roofs were made not of dull-colored grass but shiny metal; zinc roofs. Where everyone ate meat every day and did not have to wait until there was a feast or one of the cattle was dying or dead before they could have meat. What fool would take a rag doll to such a place? (16)Except for the thundering of my own heart, not a word had passed between us during the presence of the police. Not a word was spoken after they had left. Knowledge I would hide, for years even from myself, became mine that night: Fathers eyes also could house fear. (18)It is here, too, I learned to read my first word -- VASELINE! (21)We did not question why it was that the beneficent were invariably white, the beneficiaries invariably black. We had no way of knowing about the broader issues that had given birth to the organization itself, let alone understand its mission, to say nothing of the inadequacy and limitedness of its undertaking. How were we to know that many of these kind ladies were the wives and daughters of the men who paid our fathers peanuts; fed their dogs T-bone steaks; and ensured our poverty by voting in a government whose avowed task was making certain we would stay servants, serf-like and docile? We were children.[...] We did not even know we were poor. (23)Perhaps children in other lands played at being kings and queens; we just played at being white. (37)Mama often regaled us with stories of her youth. Pioneers, I learnt from her, seldom had an easy time. She and a friend had been the subject of much malice in the village when it became known they were fallen maidens. The demonic deed? They were the first to wear bloomers!To the village community, where virgins proudly displayed firm breasts, with beaded apron decorously worn over the public area, hiding ones body was a sign of shame. What could these two young girls have done to have to buy something and have to wear it every day? (44)In severing the education of the African child from that of the white child, the powers that be had announced, in Parliament, that the aim was to ensure that the black child would be protected from frustration; she would not be put through an education that would make her believe she was being prepared to graze the greener pastures. The education that would be given to the African child, the Honorable Dr. Verwoerd had enlightened us, would fit her for her station in life, service to her master, the white man, woman, child, and, in permissible ways, the white economy. Service, not participation, never mind access, would be the operative, the key word. (82)Christopher and Ian, aged eight and six, respectively, were children with all that entails. They were no saints, to be sure. But, on the other hand, neither were they devilish brats. And, what is more important, as we say in the African townships, they were being brought up. Most white children in South Africa simply grow up. There is no pruning, no tending, weeding or nurturing. They pick up, as the years roll relentlessly on, whatever prevailing societal attitudes, whims and mannerisms might be in the offing. (110)Later, I was to learn of the white South African womans anguish upon becoming a working mother. Mine was not the choice of being a working mother or a not-working mother. No, I could choose between being a working mother or having no children left. Whose mother would I have been had my children died from starvation? (133)

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