Author Sharon L. Mount weaves a collage from the stories and memories of thirty classmates from apartheid-era South Africa. With oral histories collected from the 1961 graduating class of Johannesburg Girl's High School, Barnato's Diamonds provides an peek into the lives of women and families, some of whom fled persecution in war-torn Europe, others who sought a better life, only to find themselves part of the oppressor class in a new country and community.
Named for the school's founder, Barnie Barnato, a wealthy Jewish immigrant on whose property the school was established, Barnato's Diamonds is organized into three sections, each with a different theme: family and childhood, school days and post-matriculation life, and thoughts about South Africa. The author provides an appendix that includes a conversation with a black domestic worker employed by one of the participants, as well as a history of the school and brief biographies of each woman featured. The result of three years of travel to South Africa, Europe, and the United States, this account gathers memories of parents, grandparents, marriage, religion, language, heritage, race relations, apartheid, and the shifting political climate of the era.