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Margot Luke

In this first volume of autobiography, Ruth Park covers her New Zealand years – childhood, adolescence and early challenges of adult life. Episodic and frequently leapfrogging in its chronology, the book is firmly held together by a number of recurring and interweaving themes: the urge to write and the difficulty of acquiring an appropriate education; family relationships, at once close and hedged about with barriers; poverty and the Great Depression; and finally the problem of being ‘different’ combined with the joy of discovering kindred spirits.

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On the 7 January 1934 in the Dutch town of Hilversum, a child was born and named Jopie Houbein. From her earliest days she felt that neither her face nor her name really fitted her. On the outside she was white, but all her feelings of kinship went out to people of alien races – a Chinese trader, travelling gypsies, school-friends from the East Indies, even a child disguised as St Nicholas’s black helper. One of her early fantasy playmates was the beautiful Indian actor Sabu, the Elephant Boy.

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