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244 pages, Paperback
First published January 17, 2017
"The only weapon left to me is to write about what has happened in fictional form. None of the family want the story told. Not his family, naturally. Not even my own. No one wants to tell the children what must have happened. For surely they, or at least the older ones, must know better than anyone else.... I've been writing in my head, telling stories to children, writing diaries, reading and remembering all my life. But it's not before the death of my sister that I actually sit down and write a complete novel. I'm determined to keep her alive on the page. Here, I can give her the revenge she would have wanted to have. I can control her destiny."Once We Were Sisters was both emotional and educational. You can feel Ms. Kohler's love for her sister and her residual anger that will likely never end. This account is based on Ms. Kohler's perspective and memories alone. "Murder" has not been legally investigated and is still an allegation to date. No matter what happened, it was and remains a tragedy. Once, Sheila and Maxine were sisters. Now Maxine is gone.
“ …How could we have failed to protect her from him? What was wrong with our family?Was it our mother? Our father? Was it our nature, the way we were made, our genes, what we had inherited? Or more terrible still, is there no answer to such a question? Was it just chance, fate, our stars, our destiny? It was not as if we did not see this coming. What had held us back from taking action, from hiring a bodyguard for her? Was it the misogyny inherent in the colonial and racist society in the South Africa of the time? Was it the Anglican Church school where she and I prayed daily that we might forgive even the most egregious sin? Was it the way women were considered in South Africa and in the world at large? I am still looking for the answers….”
Sheila Kohler was born November 13, 1941 in Johannesburg, and educated at St. Andrew's School for Girls where she matriculated in 1958 with a distinction in History. She then moved to Europe and spent 15 years in Paris where she married and completed an undergraduate degree in Literature at The Sorbonne (1973) and a graduate degree in Psychology from Institut Catholique (1976). She moved to the United States in 1981 and obtained an MFA from Columbia University (1984). From 1995 to 2000 she taught at The New School, and between 2000 and 2006 at Bennington College. She now teaches at Princeton University and Columbia,writes a blog for Psychology Today, and lives in New York City, and Amagansett.