This book was born from my own struggle and pain to escape an abusive marriage.
The plot of this book spans three countries: South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Oman. As a black woman, I soon realised that the odds were stacked against me from cultural, religious and societal perspectives.
This story was further motivated by droves of black women who are knowingly and unknowingly stuck in abusive marriages, those who have died at the hands of their partners and also those, like me, who dared to leave, only to be rejected, blamed and ostracised by society.
The main characters of this book are myself, my exhusband, our families and numerous people who played a role in both the destruction and the ending of my marriage.
Some of these men and women renewed my faith in humanity.
Without their help, I would have died, literally, along the way. This is a book for all women of colour, who come from conservative cultures, religion and families. Women, some of whom may have even been sold into marriage, against their will. This book is for every woman and man with a daughter, a sister, a relative or a friend struggling with abuse in marriage.
It is also for every man who aspires to change and challenge cultural norms that perpetuate the abuse of vii Preface women.
It is meant to educate and equip everyone with the awareness of things that make us enter these abusive marriages and those that keep us there, most of all, the knowledge on how to get out.
One of the biggest challenges of writing this book has been the emotional rollercoaster that it put me through. The process has taken me back to the dark places I thought I had escaped. It also opened up some old wounds. In the beginning, it took a toll on my two sons as well, because they couldn’t understand why I would be sitting in my room with my computer, weeping my eyes out. Later on, I decided to leave my house when writing.
Lots of tears were shed in public as I sat in coffee shops and at the office at my workplace.
It was again in this process that the universe sent me some of the best baristas who kept my coffee cup full and brought tissues. On the flipside, the realization of the grace in which I stand, has been my greatest blessing.
Looking back, I realise that my divorce was never a tragedy, but a blessing. I saw myself in a completely different light. I can honestly say that now, I have grown tremendously. More than anything, fear is no longer part of my being, because after losing everything and starting over, I now have no attachments to anything or anyone.
My faith in humanity has been renewed. I’m much more open, more loving and more tolerant. Strangers have become my family. Love and gratitude are the order of the day.
I would like to thank my late father, Ernest Msweli, my first love and the man who gave me my education and introduced me to the laws of my country. He always emphasised the viii Ashes To Beauty importance of educating the black child so she could stand up for herself and not be taken advantage of.
Nongalo! Ngiyabonga, I know you’re smiling down on me.
Also, a million thanks to my mother, intombi kaMphephethwa, my angel on earth, my quiet strength and my prayer warrior. I would also like to thank my two sons, for the sacrifices they made to allow me to finish my work.
My gratitude goes to my siblings for always looking out for me, especially my big brother Sbu and my only sister Sikhululekile. Thank you for your undying support and love. Last but not least, my friends at Khuzizono and Mama Hope, for walking this journey with me. Makhumuzi Mthethwa for your support and always being there when I need a sounding board.
With all of you, our friendship has crossed boundaries, well into family. From the depth of my heart, I thank you.