Author Readings to Highlight South African Struggles
Published on April 20, 2011
SELINSGROVE—Glen Retief, assistant professor of English and creative writing at Susquehanna University, will read from his newly released memoir, “The Jack Bank: A Memoir of a South African Childhood” at two area venues in April: at Susquehanna University on April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Isaacs Auditorium, in the university’s Seibert Hall, and at the Midtown Scholar bookstore, 1302 N. Third St., Harrisburg, on April 30 at 7 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
Retief grew up in a South African game park, with its attendant beauty and peril, during the apartheid era. From 1988 to 1992, he studied English at the University of Cape Town, where he became involved in the anti-apartheid struggle as well as the lesbian and gay movement. Beyond his childhood in a vast wilderness area, the book tells of Retief’s meeting an apartheid death squad leader, surviving anti-gay bullying, navigating political violence in his homeland, and successfully lobbying Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress to include non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the South African Bill of Rights.
In early 1994, Retief immigrated to the United States. Before landing in academia, he worked as an instructor of homeless, HIV-positive substance abusers, advocating needle exchange; an English as a Second Language teacher; and a teacher of high school students with learning disabilities. He has lived in Cape Town, New York City, Tallahassee, London, Madrid, Guadalajara, and Richmond, Ky., and now makes his home in Sunbury, Pa.
Retief has been published in the St. Petersburg Times and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and in a variety of literary journals. He has been awarded a James Michener Writing Fellowship and the AWP Intro Journals Award for Creative Nonfiction. He has also written newspaper columns and op-ed pieces in, among others, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Harrisburg Patriot-News, and for InsideHigherEd.com.
Retief now takes small groups of Susquehanna University students back to his homeland for two weeks of cultural immersion as part of SU’s GO (Global Opportunities) program. His challenge—and great satisfaction—is to take college students out of their comfort zones, through Cape Town and a traditional Xhosa village, while sharing his turbulent experiences growing up and opening their eyes to what privilege really means.
More information is available at www.glenretief.com.
Karen M. Jones