The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu (Hardcover)
A creative writing group unites and inspires girls of the first South African generation “born free.”
Born into post-apartheid South Africa, the young women of the townships around Cape Town still face daunting challenges. Their families and communities have been ravaged by poverty, violence, sexual abuse, and AIDS. Yet, as Kimberly Burge discovered when she set up a writing group in the township of Gugulethu, the spirit of these girls outshines their circumstances.
Girls such as irrepressible Annasuena, whose late mother was one of South Africa’s most celebrated singers; bubbly Sharon, already career-bound; and shy Ntombi, determined to finish high school and pursue further studies, find reassurance and courage in writing. Together they also find temporary escape from the travails of their lives, anxieties beyond boyfriends and futures: for some of them, worries that include HIV medication regimens, conflicts with indifferent guardians, struggles with depression. Driven by a desire to claim their own voices and define themselves, their writing in the group Amazw’Entombi, “Voices of the Girls,” provides a lodestar for what freedom might mean.
About the Author
Kimberly Burge is a journalist based in Washington, DC.
Wise, observant, compassionate, and free of sanctimony, Burge does a lovely job of skillfully—and respectfully—weaving the girls’ narratives into the larger story of a radically changing society still burdened by the wounds of an oppressive system. The Born Frees would be my pick for a book to give young women and girls (and the males in their lives) to inspire them to activism and hope.
— Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and A Wedding in Haiti
In this compelling and personal book, Kimberly Burge takes us deep inside the hearts and minds of a group of extraordinary young women whose struggles and courage epitomize what South Africa is like today.
— Jim Wallis, New York Times bestselling author of The (Un)Common Good and president of Sojourners
Readers will take the stories in The Born Frees with them forever. It is especially important for young people to know about and discuss, to build a wider world awareness and ignite passionate exploration of what matters.
— Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes
Such a warm book, full of brave young women you will never forget. My heart was deeply moved by their perception of their own condition, and that of the country at large.
— Amana Fontanella-Khan, author of Pink Sari Revolution
Incredible and inspiring, this account belongs in every library and on every bookshelf.
— Library Journal, Starred review
Deftly combining memoir and sociology, journalist Burge describes her experience teaching creative writing to adolescent girls in the South African township of Gugulethu, near Cape Town, in 2010…. Through [these] stories, readers will understand what life is like for many young women in South Africa…. This is a troubling but inspiring read.
— Publishers Weekly
[S]earing, close-up personal stories of teenage girls in a writing club…. [T]he individual profiles are rooted in harsh daily lives that spell out the heartbreak and the hope of what some have called a discarded generation…will make a strong connection with YA readers.
An affecting portrait of post-apartheid South Africa, particularly useful for writing instructors serving at-risk constituencies.
— Kirkus Reviews