Brooklyn Heights

In Brooklyn Heights, local author to discuss South African upbringing

Brooklyn BookBeat

December 12, 2013 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Though she now calls Brooklyn Heights home, author Ellie Levinson is no stranger to the world abroad. In fact, she’s spent much of her life across the world in South Africa, as she poignantly relates in her recent memoir “Let’s Play Hopscotch, Growing Up Under Apartheid in South Africa” (Tate Publishing & Enterprises). On Tuesday, Dec. 17, Levinson will appear at the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library in conversation with Elizabeth Scholtz, director emeritus of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, who also hails from South Africa. Levinson will read passages from her memoir, which she will discuss with Scholtz, after which there will be a book signing.

In “Let’s Play Hopscotch,” Levinson enlivens her hometown of Welkom, the small region in which she grew up with five siblings. She recalls her experience being raised with a Catholic, Lebanese mother and an English father under apartheid rule and goes on to describe her extensive travels to 42 different countries.  

Likening her life to a game of hopscotch, Levinson reflects on hopping from country to country and the endless array of characters she’s met along the way. Most notably, Levinson met Ivan, a Jewish medical student whom she married 36 years ago and with whom she has raised four children.

Complete with photos and hand-drawn maps (which include personal notes such as “Brother Ralph’s ill-fated short cut ‘down’ the bridge”), “Let’s Play Hopscotch” is an engaging and intimate text. Written in the present tense, the immediacy of the narrative allows the reader to feel a sense of closeness to the narrator and her experiences. Levinson writes, for instance, “We have to be spick and span for mealtimes. We all file in and sit down anywhere, but not on the seat at the head of the table. That would be for Daddy.” Later, she informally asks, “Did I mention that Mom is one of twelve children? Imagine how many cousins we have.”

Later, she recalls such momentous moments as voting for the late Nelson Mandela in the first free election in South Africa. Ellie and Ivan now live in Brooklyn Heights while their children are spread across the U.S., the United Kingdom and South Africa.

The Dec. 17 event will begin at 6:15 p.m. The Brooklyn Heights Branch Library is located at 280 Cadman Plaza West (between Pierrepont and Tillary Streets).

For additional information on Brooklyn authors and literary events, visit Brooklyn Eagle’s literary blog at If there is a writer or event you would like us to feature, or to send news of impending projects or accomplishments of Brooklyn writers you know, email [email protected].

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