My Son's Story Questions and Answers
by Nadine Gordimer

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In My Son's Story, Will thinks that women inhabit nonpolitical spaces. Do you agree with the statement?

Many would disagree with the statement that women inhabit nonpolitical spaces based on the fact that women in My Son's Story do occupy political spaces. First of all, there's Sonny's white lover, Hannah, who's involved in the anti-apartheid struggle. Then there's Sonny's wife, Aila, who also joins the resistance against racial oppression.

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The notion that women inhabit "nonpolitical spaces" in My Son's Story is doubly incorrect. First, because the three major female characters in the novel all engage directly with politics, and second, because there are no nonpolitical spaces. The novel was published in 1990, the year Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and it was written towards the end of the State of Emergency in South Africa. The intense political activity and speculation of that era, in which apartheid was ending but democracy had not yet arrived, is reflected in the novel, with three female political activists.

Hannah would, on her own, be sufficient to refute Will's statement. In the New York Times review of My Son's Story, Robert Coles points out that Hannah comes from a similar background to Nadine Gordimer 's own and that the author goes to great pains to avoid any suggestion of her being an "arrogantly patronizing white liberal activist." One of the ways in which she does this is by making Hannah's political...

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