One of the great joys of the internet for me, and for many, is that when you get just a snippet of an interesting story you can chase after it... Despite the disdain, I always start with Wikipedia if I can--if there's an entry, someone has probably gone to some trouble to put a lot of information there and there's usually some links to articles I might not find easily. After that, I start searching to see what else I can find.
I was reading one of Huffington Post's little click-through "articles"; Leonard Maltin recommending five indie movies that you "really should see". "Animal Kingdom" was on the list which I wanted to read about--the lead actress has been nominated for an Oscar for this little movie from Australia which I hadn't heard a thing about. A couple other interesting ones...but then he mentioned "Skin". A little independent movie about a girl, born to white parents in South Africa during Apartheid, with "white" features but brown skin who becomes darker and more obviously black as she gets older. Easy to see how that could be a story--a couple who love their child, but are racists who slowly realise that some genetics from a past black ancestor have turned up in their immediate family. One of the younger brothers is obviously black as well. So, imagine my surprise when I read "based on the true story of Sandra Laing." Who could read that and not go running to do some more reading?
And--it is, in fact, a true story. Born in 1955 in South Africa, under apartheid, to white parents, Sandra Laing was eventually thrown out of school and classified as black because of her dark skin. Her parents underwent blood tests to prove that the father was the father, but eventually the stress of all the hate, the invective, the difficulties at school, the general nastiness of the culture around her cause Sandra to look elsewhere for acceptance. Read this Sunday Times article about her published when the movie was first being made. It's an incredible story.
I think this is one of those stories that will stay with me for a long, long time...thinking about Sandra, wondering about her parents and what they thought and felt about their daughter. Wondering about her brothers who reject her to this day--including the brother who is almost as dark as she.
update: (Although I am generally leery of Daily Mail articles, this is a well-written one about Sandra Laing. It also has a lot more details than all the other reading I've been doing...the other articles suggested that her children were from two fathers; here, it seems that four men were involved, and that her first husband was already married making her the "little wife" to the senior wife. It's silly--her story is tragic enough without all that extra information, but without having read her bio, it adds to the sense of how lost this girl was, looking for love, acceptance and safety in a world which only saw her skin colour).