Book Review: An Immoral Proposal by Jennifer B Grahm

An Immoral Proposal:
Forbidden Love Under Apartheid

Look around the room at any citizenship ceremony and every person has an amazing story of how they got there.  For Jennifer and Michael Graham, theirs was a love story.  At a time when, in 1974 under the Apartheid, it was illegal to marry outside your race, they made the decision to leave the only home they’d known in South Africa so that they could be together.

Picture this. She’s from a lower socio economic family, left school at sixteen, works as clerk in a factory. He’s from an affluent background, private school education, university degree, member of exclusive social clubs, home in the leafy suburbs. What’s the likelihood of their having a relationship: Intimacy? – Probably not. Physical? – For sure. But would it last? Not a chance. In fact, they’re courting danger. You see, she’s Brown and he’s White. Big problem. This is South Africa 1974, the height of apartheid. In her first memoir, Jennifer B. Graham takes an emotional journey back to her childhood in a hostile land that legally classified her as a “Coloured” – officially defined by the apartheid government as a “person who fails to pass for white.” Throughout her fragmented life, coupled with being both Non-black and Non-White, struggling to find a place to belong, she carves out her version of an ordered world. Her quest is exacerbated by the love of a man who dared to make An Immoral Proposal.


“…A most enjoyable book to read. Very well written, filled with vivid descriptions and wonderful and often quite funny anecdotes. The reader is easily drawn into a different world – that of Jennifer’s growing up in South Africa, and his/her interest and involvement grow stronger as this fascinating account unfolds: a mosaic of souvenirs, the surrounding world described with light touches and a refreshing, non-judgmental simplicity… But what I find most striking is the importance given to good manners and good behavior, the proud acceptance of one’s place in life, the adherence to strong values and, despite an unspeakable political system which divides its citizens into three categories, the respect for one another. Jennifer is left with her grandparents when she is one year old but chooses as a teenager to go back to her parents because she wants to belong to her family. The importance of belonging is very powerful and mentioned from the beginning of the story. Meeting and falling in love with Michael complicates further the notion of belonging: entering his world (and vice versa) is illegal and punishable by law.”  (Danielle Rae, St. Joe’s Book Club, Ontario, Canada)

This is a well written story which I was so sorry to finish… I wished it was longer! It is very true I think, to the South Africa I visited in 1969, but as a tourist I could only imagine the troubles and miseries happening under apartheid.
This is a very real account of two peoples’ lives almost ruined by the State. This exciting account is a wonderful, lasting account of perseverance and joy growing from the darkest place. I felt encouraged and uplifted by this story! (Louise Wilden)

About the Author:

Jennifer B. Graham is a self-proclaimed global nomad who began life in South Africa, left when she was 19 and since then hasn’t looked back. She’s also lived in England, Canada, USA and New Zealand. After earning her degree in communication/print journalism from the University of Mobile, Alabama, USA, in 2001, she wrote freelance feature articles on topics such as food, health, travel and profiles for miscellaneous publications that include Destinations, Connections, The Press, The Citizen, The Fairhope Courier as well as An Immoral Proposal is her first book. She lives with her husband near Toronto, Canada. Her five grandchildren split between New York and Regina keep her wandering.

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