About the author: Jimmy Bird
The writer was born in South Africa shortly after the Nationalist Party took control of the government. He started his schooling at an Afrikaans medium farm school where he and another Jewish boy were the only English speakers in the whole school. It was here that he first experienced otherness and exclusion – die rooinek seuntjie en die klein Jood.
Thereafter he attended English private boys’ schools in Johannesburg and Grahamstown where he was largely sheltered from the unfolding realities of Apartheid. He completed a B.A. and a B.Sc. at the University of the Witwatersrand while it was still an almost exclusively white institution, with a smattering of “Indian” students.
He spent his entire working life farming where he first came face to face with his fellow black South Africans – albeit in an employer/employee relationship. Apartheid had so effectively compartmentalised the four “racial groups” that there was really little or no common ground between them. His sense of otherness and exclusion deepened.
The author rose to the top of numerous agricultural organisations, serving in turn on various boards as directors, chairmen and as presidents. It was during this period that his private and personal personae drifted so far apart that his feelings of being the outsider became complete.
There was a brief respite during the Mandela years when a sense of belonging in the new South Africa arose in him but this hope was soon dashed as racial tensions flared up again.
About the book: The Dark Side of the Full Moon: A Biography of the unAfricans
The Dark Side of the Full Moon is an intimate and sympathetic glimpse into the furtive world of interracial homosexuality in post-Apartheid South Africa. It explores the unbearable stresses imposed on such relationships by the prevailing social and moral prejudices surrounding race and sexual orientation.
Through a series of biographical sketches, the attempts of the characters to lead parallel lives are revealed; one, a socially acceptable family life, alongside another life accommodating their natural inclinations.
The pervasive social dishonesty of denying the existence of homosexuality in traditional African society and the awful price exacted by that denial are laid bare. The perceived aberration in the racial preferences of these unAfricans is questioned while seeking the origins of these preferences and exploring the social discord that arises from their choices.
The disastrous consequences of the shame and ignorance surrounding the AIDS epidemic within this community are exposed. The juxtaposition of the white and black lovers and their different perspectives on life deepens the tragedy. Despite the significant progress in understanding and treating the disease, the stigma attached to it still prevails, condemning those infected by HIV to a life in the shadow of fear, superstition and secrecy.
The wider community might be shaken out of its smug complacency by this exposure of the surprising sexual indulgences of their apparently conventional, loving and respectable fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. The blurring of the rigid classification of men as either hetero-or homosexual is highlighted.
Far from provoking a witch hunt, this is a cry for acceptance of and compassion for those who do not conform to the common social mould.
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