Naidoo, Beverley 1943-

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Naidoo, Beverley 1943-


Born May 21, 1943, in Johannesburg, South Africa; daughter of Ralph (a composer and music copyright manager) and Evelyn (a broadcaster and theater critic) Trewhela; married Nandhagopaul Naidoo (a solicitor), February 1, 1969; children: Praveen, Maya. Education: University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, B.A., 1963; University of York, B.A. (with honors), 1967, Certificate of Education, 1968; University of Southampton, Ph.D., 1991.


Home—Dorset, England. Agent—Gary Carter, Roger Hancock Ltd., 4 Water Lane, London NW1 8NZ, England.


Educator and author. Kupugani Non-Profit Nutrition Corporation, Johannesburg, South Africa, field worker; primary and secondary teacher in London, England, 1969; writer, 1985—, and researcher, 1988-91. Advisory teacher of cultural diversity and English in Dorset, England, beginning 1988; visiting fellow, University of Southampton.


British Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa's Education Committee, Writers' Guild for Great Britain, National Association for Teachers of English.

Awards, Honors

Other Award, Children's Book Bulletin, 1985, Children's Book Award, Child Study Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education, 1986, Children's Books of the Year selection, Child Study Association of America, 1987, Parents' Choice Honor Book for Paperback Literature, Parents' Choice Foundation, 1988, and

Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies/Children's Book Council (NCSS/CBC), all for Journey to Jo'burg; Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, NCSS/CBC, 1990, and Best Book for Young Adults selection, American Library Association (ALA), 1991, both for Chain of Fire; Carnegie Medal and Nestlé Smarties Book Prize Silver Awards, both 2000, Booklist Top of the List winner for Youth Fiction, 2001, Jane Addams Book Award and IBBY Honor Book, both 2002, and Sankei Children's Book Award (Japan), 2003, all for The Other Side of Truth; honorary D.Litt., University of Southampton, 2002; honorary D.Univ., Open University, 2003; Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award, 2003, and Jane Addams Peace Association Book Award, African Studies Association Children's Africana Book Award, Riverbank Review Children's Book of Distinction designation, and ALA Best Book for Young Adults designation, all 2004, all for Out of Bounds; Time Out Critics Choice designation for Best Plays for Children and Young People, 2004, for The Playground; New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age designation, 2007, for Web of Lies.



Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, Longman (London, England), 1985, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1986.

Chain of Fire (sequel to Journey to Jo'burg), Collins (London, England), 1989.

No Turning Back: A Novel of South Africa, Viking (London, England), 1995, HarperCollins (London, England), 1997.

The Other Side of Truth, Puffin (London, England), 2000, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Web of Lies (sequel to The Other Side of Truth), Penguin (London, England), 2004, Amistad (New York, NY), 2006.

Burn My Heart, Penguin (London, England), 2007.


Letang's New Friend, illustrated by Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Longman (London, England), 1994.

Letang and Julie Save the Day, illustrated by Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Longman (London, England), 1994.

Trouble for Letang and Julie, illustrated by Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Longman (London, England), 1994.

Where Is Zami?, illustrated by Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Macmillan (London, England), 1998.

(With daughter, Maya Naidoo) Baba's Gift, illustrated by Karin Littlewood, Puffin (London, England), 2004.

The Great Tug of War, and Other Stories, illustrated by Piet Grobleer, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2006.


Censoring Reality: An Examination of Books on South Africa, ILEA Centre for Anti-Racist Education and British Defence/Aid Fund for Southern Africa, 1985.

(Editor) Free as I Know, Bell & Hyman (London, England), 1987.

Through Whose Eyes? Exploring Racism: Reader, Text and Context, Trentham Books (London, England), 1992.

Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope, foreword by Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Puffin (London, England), 2001, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

The Playground (play), produced 2004.

(Author of introduction) Making It Home: Real-Life Stories from Children Forced to Flee, Puffin (London, England), 2004, Dial (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to academic journals, including English in Education and Researching Language and Literature.


Born in Johannesburg, South African, Beverley Naidoo witnessed the evils of the apartheid system first hand, but as a white in that segregated society she did not understand such evils until years later. Eventually rejecting the country's racist policies, she relocated to England. There, through her writing—including the young-adult novels Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story and Chain of Fire, the short-story collection Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope, and as several picture books for younger children—she has worked to educate young people on the evils of racism in her homeland. Since apartheid was dismantled in South Africa with the rise to power of black leader Nelson Mandella in the mid-1990s, Naidoo has turned her attentions to more general concerns. She discusses the plight of homeless street children in No Turning Back: A Novel of South Africa and covers the issue of racism in her adopted country, England, in The Other Side of Truth and its sequel, Web of Lies. In addition, she has taken time to join her daughter, Maya Naidoo, in writing a more uplifting work, the picture book Baba's Gift.

Born into an affluent family, Naidoo grew up in a world of privilege where whites patronizingly referred to African males of all ages as "boys" and females as "girls." In the care of a black nanny whom she called Mary, she was oblivious to the fact that her caregiver had three young children of her own who lived nearly two hundred miles away. Mary seldom saw her own family because she had to work in town to support them. One particular incident, which occurred when Naidoo was eight or nine, still resonates, and she recalled it in her acceptance speech for the 1986 Child Study Children's Book Award (reprinted in School Library Journal): "Mary received a telegram and collapsed. The telegram said that two of her three young daughters had died. It was diphtheria—something for which, I as a white child, had been vaccinated." It took Naidoo years to realize the significance of that event. She continued, "I must have continued to spout with the arrogance of white youth the customary rationalizations—that Mary and those who followed her, were lucky because we gave them jobs, sent presents to their children at Christmas, and so on. I still feel intensely angry about the racist

deceptions and distortions of reality which the adult society passed on to me as a child."

Following high school, Naidoo attended the University of Witwatersrand, but most of her learning took place outside of the classroom. "As I gradually began to see for the first time some of the stark reality all around me, I became intensely angry not only at the narrowness of my schooling, but at its complicity in perpetuating apartheid through not previously challenging my blinkered vision," she wrote in her book Through Whose Eyes? Exploring Racism: Reader, Text, and Context. Politicized, she joined in the anti-apartheid movement, where her activism resulted in a 1964 police detainment under the "Ninety Days" solitary confinement law. That experience forever changed the way Naidoo viewed life in South Africa.

Although Naidoo had always resisted her mother's suggestion that she become a teacher, she now realized the impact of education as a tool in the fight against apartheid. In 1965 she moved to England to pursue a teaching degree at the University of York while also teaching school part time. She also continued to expand her own horizons by following the continuing events in South Africa. Inspired by two books—The African Child by Camara Laye and Roaring Boys by Edward Blishen—Naidoo earned a B.A. with honors from York in 1967 and received her teaching certificate the following year. For the next decade, she taught primary and secondary school in London. She also became involved with an anti-apartheid group and began to look for ways to educate young people about the dangers of racism in general and of the South African apartheid system in particular.

During the early 1980s, Naidoo began doing research for the Education Group of the British Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, an activist organization that aided victims of apartheid and worked to raise the world's awareness of human-rights abuses in South Africa. Her efforts helped make people aware of the alarming shortage of suitable teaching materials about apartheid and resulted in the publication of a critical bibliographical study called Censoring Reality: An Examination of Books on South Africa, which Naidoo edited. When the Education Group decided to commission a work of "informed and helpful fiction" on apartheid, she volunteered to write it. "I wrote the text simply, quite deliberately," she explained. Naidoo penned the story as if she were telling it to her own children, she recalled, because "it seemed important to be able to explain at their level what was happening in South Africa."

The fruit of Naidoo's efforts was the young-adult novella Journey to Jo'burg, which follows the adventures of Naledi, a young black girl, and her younger brother Tiro when they travel to Johannesburg in search of their mother, a domestic servant in a white household. The children set out on the three-day journey because their baby sister is critically ill and their grandmother, who cares for them in their mother's absence, has no money for medicine or a doctor. During their journey, the children encounter the ugly realities of life for black people under apartheid.

In School Library Journal JoAnn Butler Henry called Naidoo's short work a "well-written piece [that] has no equal," and Times Educational Supplement contributor Gillian Klein deemed it a work of "uncompromising realism." In Booklist, however, Hazel Rochman faulted Naidoo's strong message. "This is not great fiction," she contended: "story and characters are thinly disguised mechanisms for describing the brutal social conditions and the need for change." While disagreements sparked over the literary value of Journey to Jo'burg, Naidoo's subject was as powerful as it was shocking and her book achieved the desired effect: it helped to draw the world's attention to the anti-apartheid struggle. Although Journey to Jo'burg was banned by the South African government, it won several children's book awards in the United States and the United Kingdom.

In Chain of Fire, a sequel to Journey to Jo'burg, Naidoo revisits Naledi, who is now fifteen years old, as her family and neighbors face eviction and enforced resettlement to a "black homeland" called Bophuthatswana. Because apartheid laws prevented Naidoo from living in South Africa, she researched Chain of Fire by interviewing other South African expatriates and by reading whatever books and articles she could find about the government's ethnic cleansing policies. "I immersed myself in the devastating data on the mass destruction of the homes and lives of millions of South Africans by the apartheid regime through its program of ‘Removals’ to [these] so-called ‘Homelands,’" she later explained.

According to Marcia Hupp, writing in School Library Journal, Chain of Fire "flows effortlessly, with power and grace, as it succeeds in making a foreign culture immediate and real." The novel "is not easy reading, nor should it be," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor; "it tackles tough issues head-on and presents them with superb dramatic tension." The novel's "chief strength lies in the moving representation of family and village life," wrote Peter Hollindale in the Times Educational Supplement, and Kliatt contributor Sherri Forgash Ginsberg found the story "uplifting," due to its focus on teens "who have the courage to stand up for what they believe."

A stark, uncompromising look at the plight of abused and homeless street children, No Turning Back focuses on a twelve-year-old African boy named Sipho. Fleeing an abusive stepfather, he runs runs away, hoping to find a better life on the streets of Johannesburg. Tragically, Sipho quickly learns about survival in the "new South Africa." He gets involved with a street gang, sleeps in the gutters, begs for food, and experiments with glue sniffing in an effort to escape his misery. In the end, he finds refuge in a shelter where he has the chance to go to school.

Amy Chamberlain praised No Turning Back in her Horn Book review as "a can't put down account of an impoverished South African boy." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer noted that Naidoo's novel seems written "effortlessly from the boy's point of view, so that his confusion, eagerness and naive wishes unfold naturally." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews was less impressed, describing the book as "bland" and "uninvolving" and noting "the story lacks the fire that made Journey to Jo'burg so compelling." Elizabeth Bush, reviewing the novel for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, also felt that Naidoo "toned down" Sipho's struggles "for middle-grade consumption," shepherding the youth through street danger like a "literary guardian angel." However, Rochman remarked in Booklist that No Turning Back shares the power of Naidoo's earlier novels, and something more. "This time the social realism is just as authentic," asserted the critic, "but there is more personal focus." In Voice of Youth Advocates Beth E. Anderson also noted that Naidoo "brings to her readers the reality of homeless children," and ends her tale with a "glimmer of hope," and Magpies contributor Nola Allen deemed the novel "eloquent and compassionate."

Naidoo moves beyond the boundaries of South Africa both politically and geographically with The Other Side of Truth, which was honored with the United Kingdom's prestigious Carnegie Medal. In this novel, set in Nigeria during the political unrest of the 1990s, twelve-year-old Sade Solaja and her younger brother Femi find themselves in great danger after assassins accidentally shoot their mother. The assassins meant to kill their father, outspoken journalist Forlarin Solaja. Shipped off to London to life with their father's brother, the children soon discover that their university professor uncle has abandoned them and gone into hiding after being threatened himself. Detained and interviewed by the police and British immigration authorities, the two siblings remain silent, afraid that revealing anything about themselves might put their father in jeopardy. Sade and Femi eventually find kindness in a foster home, but experience harassment at school. When their father rejoins them after entering England illegally, their jubilation turns to fear when Forlarin is arrested and subsequently goes on a hunger strike. Sade now finds a way to act: she manages to tell her father's story on the evening news, and once public attention is drawn to the case the man is released. With freedom, the Solaja family is left to make a home in their new country.

Reviewing The Other Side of Truth for School Library Journal, Gerry Larson wrote that Naidoo effectively "captured and revealed the personal anguish and universality of the refugee experience." In Horn Book Nell D. Beram dubbed the novel a "scrupulously well-observed narrative," further commenting that it not only "honors its political and ethical engagements," but also "succeeds as a first-rate escape-adventure story." Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman similarly noted that The Other Side of Truth "brings the news images very close," while Stephanie Zvirin noted in the same periodical that Naidoo "raises tough questions."

Readers rejoin the Solaja family in Web of Lies, as they attempt to make a life for themselves in the strange and volatile culture of South London. Femi, now age twelve, is having the most difficulty, and like many teens his age has become involved with a gang. As the half-truths and evasions mount, fourteen-year-old Sade begins to suspect, but hopes, in the journal entries that weave throughout the novel, that she can help her brother without troubling her father. As the family hangs in limbo, unsure whether the British government will grant them political asylum, Femi's new friends escalate their destructive behavior. Now Femi faces a crisis: should he follow the gang, or follow his conscience. And if he comes clean, will his family lose their chance to be granted the asylum they have long hoped for? Praising Web of Lies as "a riveting sequel," Horn Book contributor Susan P. Bloom noted that Naidoo's story "power- fully clarif[ies] … the seductive power the violent gang holds for the lonely, grief-stricken boy." As Sue Giffard maintained in School Library Journal, the author "integrates Nigerian culture seamlessly into the British context, revealing the complex social world inhabited by [the country's] immigrants." According to Kliatt contributor KaaVonia Hinton, Naidoo's "ability to weave political unrest and social issues into characters' lives" is one of the book's strengths, making Web of Lies "ideal for social studies classrooms."

As she has throughout her career, Naidoo continues to balance her writing with teaching and social activism. Although confronting social injustices such as racism and poverty can be disheartening, as she explained on the British Council's Crossing Borders Web site, through her writing she both illuminates problems and shares her optimism that such problems can be solved. "Stories are a way of making sense, first of all for myself, and then for others," she explained. "I believe that if a writer can find the truths in a specific human situation, the meaning will carry across time, place, at least to some readers if not to all."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Children's Literature Review, Volume 29, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Gallo, Donald R., editor and compiler, Speaking for Ourselves, Too, National Council of Teachers of English (Urbana, IL), 1993.

Naidoo, Beverley, Through Whose Eyes? Exploring Racism: Reader, Text, and Context, Trentham Books (London, England, 1992.

Twentieth-Century Young-Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Booklist, March 15, 1986, Hazel Rochman, review of Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story, p. 1086; March 15, 1990, review of Chain of Fire, p. 1430; December 15, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of No Turning Back: A Novel of South Africa, p. 724; December 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of The Other Side of Truth, p. 723; January 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, interview with Naidoo, p. 830; February 15, 2002, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Other Side of Truth, p. 1034; February 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope, p. 1080; February 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Web of Lies, p. 60.

Book Report, September-October, 1997, Karen Sebesta, review of No Turning Back, pp. 38-39.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1986, review of Journey to Jo'burg, p. 175; May, 1990, review of Chain of Fire, p. 223; February, 1997, Elizabeth Bush, review of No Turning Back, p. 217; February, 2003, review of Out of Bounds, p. 246; June, 2006, Loretta Gaffney, review of Web of Lies, p. 464.

English Journal, September, 1986, review of Journey to Jo'burg, p. 81.

Five Owls, May, 1990, review of Chain of Fire, p. 90; March, 1991, p. 70.

Horn Book, September-October, 1990, review of Journey to Jo'burg, p. 607; March-April, 1997, Amy Chamberlain, review of No Turning Back, p. 203; November-December, 2001, Nell D. Beram, review of The Other Side of Truth, pp. 756-757; March-April, 2003, Susan P. Bloom, review of Out of Bounds, p. 214; July-August, 2006, Susan P. Bloom, review of Web of Lies, p. 447.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1990, review of Chain of Fire, p. 428; December 1, 1996, review of No Turning Back; December 1, 2002, review of Out of Bounds, p. 1771.

Kliatt, May, 1993, Sherri Forgash Ginsberg, review of Chain of Fire, p. 10; May, 2003, Rebecca Rabinowitz, review of The Other Side of Truth, p. 20; August 15, 2005, review of Making It Home: Real-Life Stories from Children Forced to Flee, p. 919; May, 2006, KaaVonia Hinton, review of Web of Lies, p. 12.

Magpies, March, 1996, Nola Allen, review of No Turning Back, p. 36; September, 2002, Sophie Masson, "Know the Author: Beverley Naidoo," pp. 10-12.

Publishers Weekly, May 30, 1986, review of Journey to Jo'burg, p. 67; March 30, 1990, review of Chain of Fire, p. 64; December 16, 1996, review of No Turning Back, p. 60; November 5, 2001, review of The Other Side of Truth, p. 36; December 16, 2002, review of Out of Bounds, p. 68.

School Librarian, May, 1989, review of Chain of Fire, p. 75; February, 1996, review of No Turning Back, p. 31; winter, 2004, Sue Roe, review of Web of Lies, p. 216.

School Library Journal, August, 1986, JoAnn Butler Henry, review of Journey to Jo'burg, p. 96; May, 1987, Beverly Naidoo, "The Story behind ‘Journey to Jo'burg,’" p. 43; May, 1990, Marcia Hupp, review of Chain of Fire, pp. 108, 113; September, 2001, Gerry Larson, review of The Other Side of Truth, p. 231; January, 2003, Sue Giffard, review of Out of Bounds, p. 141; May, 2006, Sue Giffard, review of Web of Lies, p. 132.

Times Educational Supplement, April 26, 1985, Gillian Klein, review of Journey to Jo'burg, p. 26; May 20, 1988, Bill Deller, "Breadth of Vision," p. B21; March 10, 1989, Peter Hollindale, "Bound to Protest," p. B15; July 5, 1996, review of No Turning Back, p. R8.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1986, review of Journey to Jo'burg, p. 148; June, 1990, review of Chain of Fire, p. 108; October, 1997, Beth E. Anderson, review of No Turning Back, p. 246; June, 2003, review of Out of Bounds, p. 141.


Beverley Naidoo Home Page, (June 10, 2007).

British Council Crossing Borders Web site, (June 10, 2007), "Beverley Naidoo."

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Naidoo, Beverley 1943-

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