Franceska Jordan didn’t have the easiest life. Nor did her mother. But they both turned their lives into something of hope and of inspiration. And for Franceska, her book Under the Boab Tree is as much her mother’s memoir as it is her own.
Her mother, Isabella, was an activist. Despite dealing with domestic violence at home and raising two young girls, Isabella was a voice for the minorities.
“It was mainly to be my mother’s memoir. She did so much work in Africa, and I consider her an unsung hero,” Franceska told The AJN. “A lot of the men who worked in the freedom trade union movement in South Africa, and freedom fighters, have had their stories told and written about, but not as many of the women. We need to hear more women’s voices in the world.”
In Under the Boab Tree, Franceska takes readers through her family’s history, reminiscing about how her family has grown, from humble beginnings in Lithuania to their migration to South Africa, to Zambia and Zimbabwe, and finally to Australia.
Explaining that she learnt from her mum how to take care of people who are different, Franceska said everything in her life led to her becoming a counsellor and speaker, helping people heal.
“We weren’t very well off financially, and as I say towards the end of the book when I talk about legacies, my mother bequeathed her values over her valuables. Because material wealth is just a small part of the legacy we leave to our children and the world,” she said.
Acknowledging that she never really dealt with the trauma she was subjected to, Franceska said she met with a Jungian analyst, Marie, who helped her face the ghosts.
“She was very taken when I told her I used to climb this tree in the garden to get away from the fighting,” Franceska recalled. “She was amazed at how as a young child I was already able to protect myself somewhat from the violence in the home.”
So that’s how the boab tree became a character in the book. The tree’s story is intertwined with Franceska’s family story, taking readers through her mother’s activism, resisting the oppression of apartheid South Africa, and how Franceska followed in her footsteps, albeit in a slightly different fashion – helping those in need in the mental health, aged care and disability sectors.
“I see my work as helping to bring healing from the trauma for people. To help them find a way where the trauma doesn’t dictate their lives,” she said.
“My mother and I are not defined as victims. There’s a writer who talks about not remaining the victim but becoming victorious. And I really believe that my mother and I did that. I’m still doing that. Both of us have been able to give a lot of love and a lot of solace to people.”
Under the Boab Tree is published by Ocean Reeve Publishing, $24.75.
For more information, visit franceskajordan.com.au