cover image The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu

The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu

Kimberly Burge. Norton, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-23916-4

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. Amazw’Entombi, or “Voices of the Girls,” is the name Burge’s students gave their group, and the author shares their writings along with her own. Faced with many disadvantages—the dangers posed by violence, AIDS, and poverty; low rates of completing school, due to broken or unstable households—these girls might be expected to be grim and discouraged. Yet they are also the “Born Frees,” the first generation born and raised since the collapse of apartheid, and intent on fulfilling the promise of that distinction. Readers come to know a few of them well—Annasuena, who is raped and left HIV-positive by her uncle, and Sharon, who manages to complete her education, among others. Through their stories, readers will understand what life is like for many young women in South Africa. While their circumstances are difficult, the girls have dreams of futures that include work, family, love, and self-respect. This is a troubling but inspiring read. 15 photos. (Aug.)