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Twilight People: One Man's Journey To Find His Roots

David Houze
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppb9z
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  • Book Info
    Twilight People
    Book Description:

    David Houze was twenty-six and living in a single room occupancy hotel in Atlanta when he discovered that three little girls in an old photo he'd seen years earlier were actually his sisters. The girls had been left behind in South Africa when Houze and his mother fled the country in 1966, at the height of apartheid, to start a new life in Meridian, Mississippi, with Houze's American father. This revelation triggers a journey of self-discovery and reconnection that ranges from the shores of South Africa to the dirt roads of Mississippi-and back. Gripping, vivid, and poignant, this deeply personal narrative uses the unraveling mystery of Houze's family and his quest for identity as a prism through which to view the tumultuous events of the civil rights movement in Mississippi and the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa.Twilight Peopleis a stirring memoir that grapples with issues of family, love, abandonment, and ultimately, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is also a spellbinding detective story-steeped in racial politics and the troubled history of two continents-of one man's search for the truth behind the enigmas of his, and his mother's, lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93174-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. AUTHOR’S NOTE
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. [Maps]
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. PROLOGUE
    (pp. 1-4)

    One of the unwritten rules of the universe has to be that the harder you look for something, the more elusive it proves to be. But sooner or later, you do find what you’ve always been looking for, you do claim the proverbial prize—at least that’s what I told myself to justify my aching knees and the sweat now starting to trickle down my face. All around me, dog-eared books on South African history, discarded fast-food wrappers, and dirty clothes littered my closet-size room at the newly built Stratford Inn, a single room occupancy hotel near downtown Atlanta. As...

  6. 1 From Down South to Down South
    (pp. 5-68)

    To South Africans of color such as my mother, who came of age in the years after 1948, when the white minority government launched the social experiment known as apartheid, the United States beckoned as a country of promise and opportunity, a faraway place relatively free of the racialized degradation South Africa had come to epitomize. Americans, especially black Americans, were glamorous and well off and lived in beautiful homes, my mother and many in her generation believed. Although they understood that whites ran most things in America, too, it was hard to conceive of a life as oppressive as...

  7. 2 Into the Breach
    (pp. 69-192)

    I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. It was a week before Christmas Eve of 1992, and I had endured eighteen hours of being scrunched into an economy-class airplane seat from Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany, and now on to Johannesburg, South Africa. I had not been able to sleep, and my body had taken a real beating. My legs were numb with inactivity and exhaustion.

    As I tentatively reached down to nudge my frozen legs back to life, the voice of a flight attendant came over the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has indicated that we are approximately forty-five minutes...

  8. 3 Truth and Reconciliation
    (pp. 193-270)

    Just a few blocks beyond the hotels and resorts of Durban’s South Beach, the landscape suddenly gives way to the harbor and the port city’s industrial and manufacturing district. As we look out the window of a Greyhound bus, the view from the N2 Highway reveals warehouses, wharves, and piers and offers just a glimpse of the perpetual motion of workers, ships, derricks, and supply trucks in South Africa’s busiest port. As we travel toward the outskirts of the city, my mother, Yvonne, who is seated next to me, recognizes a building where she once lived. Even from the road,...

  9. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 271-284)

    Several months after my mother and I returned to the United States from South Africa, we met in Atlanta to embark on another journey to settle some unfinished business. My mother hadn’t seen my brother Xavier in thirty years, and now we were driving down Highway 59 South through Hattiesburg to visit him at the Boswell Regional Center in Sanatorium, Mississippi. In contrast to the difficulties and uncertainties we faced in locating and reconciling with my sisters in South Africa, we would have no trouble finding Xavier. He had been at Boswell since my grandmother’s death in 1997.

    For most...

  10. POSTSCRIPT
    (pp. 285-288)

    On January 6, 2005, the state of Mississippi indicted Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old former Klansman and self-described preacher, for the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Killen had long been implicated in the 1964 murders, but he had escaped conviction along with seventeen other men in a 1967 federal civil rights trial. The jury had deadlocked after one of the jurors, the only holdout, declared herself unable to convict a man of the cloth. Killen had spent the intervening years operating a sawmill, raising a family, and promoting his belief in the God-ordained inferiority of blacks....

  11. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 289-290)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 291-308)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 309-320)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 321-330)
  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)