The Jack Bank by Glen Retief

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An extraordinary, literary memoir from a gay white South African, coming of age at the end of apartheid in the late 1970s.  Glen Retief's childhood was at once recognizably ordinary--and brutally unusual.

Raised in the middle of a game preserve where his father worked, Retief's warm nuclear family was a preserve of its own, against chaotic forces just outside its borders: a childhood friend whose uncle led a death squad, while his cultured grandfather quoted Shakespeare at barbecues and abused Glen's sister in an antique-filled, tobacco-scented living room.

But it was when Retief was sent to boarding school, that he was truly exposed to human cruelty and frailty. When the prefects were caught torturing younger boys, they invented "the jack bank," where underclassmen could save beatings, earn interest on their deposits, and draw on them later to atone for their supposed infractions. Retief writes movingly of the complicated emotions and politics in this punitive all-male world, and of how he navigated them, even as he began to realize that his sexuality was different than his peers'.


About Glen Retief

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Glen Retief is an Assistant Professor of Creative Nonfiction at Susquehanna University. He has been published in a variety of literary journals and quarterlies and awarded a James Michener Writing Fellowship and the AWP Intro Journals Award for Creative Nonfiction. He lives in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
Published April 12, 2011 by St. Martin's Press. 288 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian. Non-fiction

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This Lord of the Flies–style adolescent savagery was really an apparatus of apartheid, “whereby white boys [were] bullied when they were young so that later they [would] know how to beat blacks into continued submission.” For the author, victimization led to a self-destructive relationship with d...

Apr 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Jack Bank

Open Salon

Both he and his wife, Deborah, are…” April 07, 2011 11:17AM Yesterday I wrote the first of a four part review of Glen Retief’s The Jack Bank, A Memoir of a South African Childhood, and shared an excerpt about the shadowy sense of privilege the author sensed as a child, but coul...

Apr 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Jack Bank

Open Salon

He also details his efforts to ban antigay discrimination in the post-apartheid Bill of Rights.” Publishers Weekly reviews it as well and says: “Probing deeply into his personal memories of race, sexuality, and violence, creative writing instructor Retief has written a potent, evocative chronic...

Apr 17 2011 | Read Full Review of The Jack Bank

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