When Rachel Zadok was growing up in apartheid South Africa, she had, like most other white children, a black nanny, Gladys. In her early teens her family moved, but Gladys, in many ways a second mother, did not come too. Apart from one visit Rachel never heard from her again, and it shocked her to discover that people so intimate, so close, could be "so disposable", simply because, in the end, they were black and for hire. It was "such a disturbing, strange, warped thing" that it made her determined that it would not happen again: with her mother's new helper, Margaret, she made sure that she built her own, separate relationship. She and Margaret still go for boozy lunches, and, in what seems, for Zadok, a typical mixture of active idealism and earthy worldliness, do a bit of gambling, with Zadok's money: "We see if we can win some money to get her children educated."
This book will soon be published by Macmillan, and then will be more easily available in the U.S. While we're waiting, how about dipping into some other memoirs of life in Africa?
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller is another account, by a young white woman, of her growing up years in modern Africa. Ms. Fuller lived in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe amid violence and war. This book is also an award-winner.
The Flame Trees Of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood by Elspeth Huxley chronicles her childhood in early twentieth century Kenya, amid the destructiveness of colonialization. It's been dramarized on Masterpeice Theater, and the video version is also very worthwhile.
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen is the grand-mommy of African memoirs. Baroness Blixen owned a coffee plantation in Kenya from 1914 to 1931, and her account of those years is a modern classic. Published in 1937, it reflects the racist attitudes of the time, but Dinesen is an enlightened observer and has much to say about African colonialism prior to World War II.