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Under the Skin

  • This beautifully written and evocative memoir is a fascinating insight into the lives of her family, living under apartheid, who struggled to create a sense of identity and personal worth. It’s a book of historical relevance in its revelations about resistance to Apartheid by South Africans of mixed race; and it is also a book of social relevance to the debate on racism today, in Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere in the world.

    Marion van Dyk’s absorbing memoir submerges the reader in the world of South Africa in the 1950s through to the 1980s. Classified as a ‘coloured’ (being neither black nor white) by an apartheid government, she and her family are forced to live as second-class citizens, caught between two worlds. Marion and her family struggle to make ends meet after they are forced to leave their family home when their area is redesignated for whites only.

    After relocating to a small ‘coloured’ township, Marion attends a school where, despite severe restrictions, her teachers fight tooth and nail to give her an education. She becomes head of a computer programming department, breaking through racial and gender barriers in the process, before emigrating to Australia with her husband and son.

    Marion van Dyk was a finalist in the 2012 Finch Memoir Prize for this, her first book, the memoir Under the Skin.

    ‘The power of this book comes from seeing life in apartheid South Africa through the eyes of a young ‘coloured’ person. I really liked her casual use of everyday detail which gives a strong and vivid idea of what life in pre-Mandela South Africa was like for a large proportion of the population. … This is a story that has been much written about from a perspective we have not seen before, and a very interesting one.’ – JACQUELINE KENT, judge in the Finch Memoir Prize and author of The Making of Julia Gillard and An Exacting Heart

    ‘All in all, an ordinary person caught up in some extraordinary history and strongly written throughout.’ – RICHARD GLOVER, ABC radio broadcaster, author of The Mud Hut

    ‘Under the Skin … is a fine example of the political made personal; the way the laws of a country impact on the daily lives of individuals. An intensely personal memoir, it engages both the mind and the heart with its evocative, poetic writing and its warm sense of humour.’ – PATTI MILLER, author of The Mind of a Thief and Writing Your Life

    Under the Skin is a moving account of growing up as a “coloured” in South Africa, and is marked by its vitality, warmth and insight. Marion’s is a strong, assured voice, wonderfully free of self-absorption, and she balances her personal story with historical and political analysis of the apartheid years.’ – ZOE WICOMB, internationally acclaimed author of You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town

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