Beverly Hills grandmother’s memoir of life under apartheid becomes a bestseller

A story that had to be told: Beverly Hills author, Beryl Crosher-Segers has published a memoir of life in South Africa under apartheid. Picture: Nev Young
A story that had to be told: Beverly Hills author, Beryl Crosher-Segers has published a memoir of life in South Africa under apartheid. Picture: Nev Young

Beverly Hills author, Beryl Crosher-Segers’ memoir of life in South Africa under apartheid has taken the Number One spot on the Amazon Bestselling list in Australia.

Called ‘A Darker Shade of Pale’ her memoir depicts life as a person of mixed race in apartheid South Africa.

The cover of Beryl Crosher-Segers’ memoir, A Darker Shade of Pale.

The cover of Beryl Crosher-Segers’ memoir, A Darker Shade of Pale.

It is number one Amazon’s South African History category, its Discrimination and Racism category and its Ethnic Studies category, as well as listings in ‘Hot New Releases’.

“I never thought when I wrote this book that it would be as popular,” Beryl said.

Beryl was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1955, seven years after the reigning National party imposed the system of apartheid.

While it is a story about the impact of racism, it is also a story of family.

“I was born under apartheid so I knew no other life than as a second-rate citizen due to my parent’s mixed marriage,” Beryl said.

On her mother’s side, her grandfather was Portuguese. His ship was stranded off the coast of Mozambique. He swam to shore where he met Beryl’s grandmother.

“They had 17 children so I am one of 65 first cousins,” Beryl said.

On her father’s side, her grandfather was born on the island of St Helena and his parents were from East India.

“Living in South Africa, we weren’t black and we weren’t white, so they didn’t know what to do with us,” Beryl said.

“I grew up not knowing anything was wrong until I got to high school.”

In her memoir she details the injustices, humiliation and challenges she faced under the brutal reign of the National Party.

Beryl said her father, Benjamin, was very angry with the system but her mother, Sarah was more realistic and emphasised the need for her to get an education which hopefully would be her ticket out of South Africa.

“This is my story, but it’s also the story of so many others during that exceptional time. While Nelson Mandela was paying the ultimate price in prison, we were all out there living through it, day by day,” Beryl said.

She immigrated to Australia in 1988 and  and has lived in Hurstville and Beverly Hills where she raised her two children. She is now a grandmother of four.

While her father, Benjamin died in South Africa, her mother, Sarah was also able to immigrate and now aged 87 lives on the Central Coast.

Beryl has been named one of Australia’s 100 most influential South Africans. She is the founder of the One World Choral community choir and owner of C Major Events, an entertainment business which brings South African performers to Australia.

She worked in the public service and for the NSW Government for Ministerial Office and was involved in the Sydney Olympics helping to supervise the medal presentation ceremonies.

She holds the Celebrate African-Australia's Captain's Award for service to the South African Community and A Human Rights Award from the University of Technology, Sydney.

Beryl said she hopes that people who read her book will take away an awareness of what the impact of racism and discrimination does to people’s lives.

“I’m still living with it today at the age of 62,” she said.

“I did not want my children and future generations to have to grow up under the horror of apartheid.

“Now I want to make sure that they are aware of their history,” she said.

“It is important that stories like mine are told, so they do not become forgotten, and so that we can evolve as a society.

“I am afraid there will always be racism, but I hope we never see it legislated again,” she said.

Beryl is now working on her second book, Tales of the Illawarra Line.

It is inspired by her realisation for the first time after immigrating how free life was in Australia.

“I was travelling to work on the Illawarra line and realised how I could now get on a train and there were no signs telling us where to sit,”

“Under apartheid we could only stand on certain parts of the platform at railway stations.

“I’d sit on the platform and think that is how life is meant to be.”

A Darker Shade of Pale is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Angus and Robertson online and at Gleebooks.

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