PERSONAL: Born in Durban, South Africa; immigrated to United States, 1985; children: two sons. Education: Rhodes University, B.A.; Natal University, graduate degree. Hobbies and other interests: Books, cats, wine, conversation, independent movies, and good food, particularly Indian cuisine.
CAREER: Writer. Worked variously as a journalist, toy salesperson, assistant librarian, high school teacher, and public-relations executive.
MEMBER: NAMI, PEN West.
AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Media award, NAMI.
Nature Lessons, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Anyhow in a Corner (novel).
SIDELIGHTS: In 1985 Lynette Brasfield emigrated from her home in Johannesburg, South Africa to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and then to California in 1988. She has set parts of her debut novel, Nature Lessons, in Cleveland Ohio, home to her protagonist, single, forty-year-old advertising copywriter Kate Jensen.
The story begins in 1995, with flashbacks to the 1960s and 1970s. Kate has not been home to South Africa for more than twenty years, but when she receives a letter from her widowed mother, Violet, asking her to return because she is suffering with cancer, Kate does so. Violet, whom Kate considered paranoid, had claimed during the years Kate was a teen that the country's apartheid government was spying on her and that her Afrikaner brother-in-law, Oom Piet, was trying to have her institutionalized as a schizophrenic. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Brasfield "deftly introduces Jensen's doubts about her own mental health as her mother's mindset becomes an issue."
When she arrives in Durban, Kate is unable to find her mother, but does find evidence that some of her mother's allegations may be true. She also learns that her uncle may have killed her mother's lover, Winston, who was the family gardener and a freedom fighter. Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman felt that Brasfield "gets exactly right the South African landscape from the viewpoint of a white girl in a 'colonial cocoon.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Nature Lessons, p. 1375.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2003, review of Nature Lessons, p. 252.
Library Journal, March 15, 2003, Patricia Gulian, review of Nature Lessons, p. 113.
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, review of Nature Lessons, p. 45.
Lynette Brasfield Home Page, http://literati.net/Brasfield (January 28, 2003).