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Jennifer Friedman’s memoir, Queen of the Free State, told with humour and pathos

The outsider on the inside. The one who watches and listens. The bearer of tales. 

Growing up Jewish in a small town in the Free State in the ’50s and ’60s, Jennifer Friedman moves between child and adult, black and white, as Verwoerd’s grand apartheid is dividing South Africa.

There are midnight escapes, stolen loot and banned comics Frogs’ legs, eisteddfods, icy drives with Grandpa, hideous encounters with bras, terrifying policemen, albino messengers and Pa’s beatings.

Told with humour and pathos, Friedman’s memoir brings to life a strong sense of place, love, rebellion and betrayal.

Mike Nicol on Queen of the Free State: “There are books that open our eyes to the world, that reveal a truth about life … This is one of them. When that insight comes from a life story that is charming, surprising, funny, beautifully written we cannot but be seduced. Yet Jenny Friedman takes no prisoners. She has a clear eye and a sharp way with words: those who fail her bleed. Hers is a classic memoir.’

Jennifer Friedman was born and raised in the Orange Free State. She studied at UCT, and her Afrikaans poetry has been published in various journals such as Tydskrif vir Letterkunde and Wetenskap en Kuns.

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