Dr Barbara Boswell: Grace: a novel

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“Why don’t we do that now? Paint?” Grace tried.
And Mary would exhale the wordless sigh of a woman who had surrendered her dreams to the world too soon.’ -Grace, a novel by Barbara Boswell

Dr Barbara Boswell(@BobbiBoswell) is an African feminist, writer, lecturer and mother whose novel “Grace” is the subject of our last edition of our Women in Literature series for the month of August.

Grace is a deeply reflective account of a family living with the terror of domestic violence. Perhaps what makes this living reality even more frightening is the common knowledge of this reality held by the community in silence. Grace follows the life of a young girl in this family from childhood to adult life and paints a vivid picture of the lasting effects of having been a witness and victim to such intimately personal violence. The novel explores both the complicity of communities in which these victims live and the beliefs that allow a culture of abuse to flourish. In a year in which so much more attention has been paid to the crisis of Gender-Based Violence we continue to find ourselves in as a country, this podcast is timeous.

What began as random scribbles as a form of catharsis for Dr Boswell, herself an adult survivor of childhood marred by domestic violence is a powerful account of the seen and unseen effects of this experience long after it has occurred in the confines what should have been a safe space.
There are moments of deep grief, tragedy and pain in what is a fictional account but in many ways could be the written account of a survivor of this violence.

In reading Grace, one is forced to sit deeply with the themes of silence, complicity and generational trauma. There is a beautiful complexity in the exploration of mother-daughter relationships, both biological and not. There are powerful questions of redemption posed for both victim and perpetrator for readers to grapple with.

Dr Barbara Boswell holds a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland. She is currently a Professor in the department of English Literature at the University of Cape Town.

Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele (@alma_nalisha) sat down with her to discuss her compelling novel, “Grace” along with many of the themes mentioned earlier. In her own quietly reflective way Dr Boswell reveals some wonderful meditations on grief and loss.

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