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Nadine Gordimer: The voice of Oppression

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Today’s woman in focus will be Nadine Gordimer. She was born in 1923 and died in July of this year. She was a South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. Nadine Gordimer was active in the anti-apartheid movement and her writing was centered on the issues of apartheid, moral issues, poverty racism and HIV/aids. She was also an activist for HIV/aids issues.

With all her activism one might ask how did she find time to write? Yet, she was a gifted writer. You can say that her interest in racial and apartheid issues came from her upbringing. Her father was an immigrant from Russia and she drew from his experiences in South Africa. However, her father did not particularly care about the Blacks in South Africa.

Nadine Gordimer extended her compassion for the oppressed in South Africa. She saw dignity and humanity in everyone. She followed her mother that way. She had her first hands on experience when the government stormed into her family home looking for one of their servants.

Nadine Gordimer did go to a catholic convent school but was often kept home while her mother claimed she had a weak heart. The isolation she felt helped her develop a passion for writing. As a result her first short story was published in 1937 when she was 16. By 1951 her work was being accepted by The New Yorker.

Nadine Gordimer catapulted into to the Anti-apartheid movement after her best friend was arrested and the Sharpville Massacre resulted in the death of 69 peaceful black protestors at the hands of the police .

Nadine Gordimer was friend’s with Nelson Mandela’s lawyers and also helped Mandela to edit his famous speech "I Am Prepared To Die", given from the defendant's dock at the trial. However, the majority of her writings were banned by the South African government for being too one sided.

Nadine Gordimer joined the African National Congress at the time when it was still considered illegal. She went as far as to hide ANC leaders in her house. “She served on the steering committee of South Africa's Anti-Censorship Action Group. She was a founding member of the Congress of South African Writers, Gordimer was also active in South African letters and international literary organizations. She was Vice President of International PEN...

In the post-apartheid 1990s and 21st century, Gordimer was active in the HIV/AIDS movement, addressing a significant public health crisis in South Africa. In 2004, she organized about 20 major writers to contribute short fiction for Telling Tales, a fundraising book for South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, which lobbies for government funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and care. On this matter, she was critical of the South African government, noting in 2004 that she approved of everything President Thabo Mbeki had done except his stance on AIDS.”

Nadine Gordimer cared for the underdog she spent her entire life pushing for education and reform in South Africa. Nadine Gordimer’s pen spoke volumes and got the whole world to pay attention to what was happening in South Africa and to address issues of poverty and racism in their respective countries. Unfortunately Nadine Gordimer passed away this year at the age of 90; the same year as her friend Nelson Mandela.

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