Former Bread staffer writes book on post-apartheid South Africa

South African Youth Day, Amawz’Entombi reunion. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Burge.

By Stephen H. Padre

If you’re still looking for Christmas presents for friends or family, I can suggest an enjoyable nonfiction book for the readers in your life.

One of my predecessors in my job as managing editor at Bread is the author of The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu, which was released this summer. Kimberly Burge worked at Bread for many years and left the organization and Washington, D.C., to move to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship to write this book. It isn’t an academic sociology study. The book is part personal memoir for Burge, part history on colonialism and apartheid, and part contemporary story of young people coming of age after a major historical period in their country ends.

Burge takes us through her own journey and the journey of girls in a writing group she established at a church outside Cape Town. Through getting to know the girls on a personal level and through the girls’ writing as part of the group, Burge gives us a glimpse of the hopes, dreams, and burdens of this first generation to be born after the end of apartheid, which is the basis of the book’s title.

Imagine coming of age as an African woman in a country that had oppressed your race for generations. Imagine coming of age in the economic powerhouse of Africa but being uncertain of your job prospects. Imagine coming of age while being HIV positive. Imagine coming of age with parents who are absent for a variety of reasons. These and other aspects of these girls’ lives are laid out for the reader to contemplate as they get to know them as vulnerable and lovable girls through Burge’s eyes.

The book is a realistic look at this generation, but Burge doesn’t paint them as a generation filled with despair or doomed by their circumstances. Neither has Burge written a “fish out of water” travel memoir of a white American going to Africa and living in a foreign culture. While there are moments of this nature in the book, it provides an honest explanation of the author’s attempt to immerse herself in a community and get to know girls and their histories and what their futures might hold. But most importantly, the book traces the girls’ journeys as they learn to open up, speak with their own voices, and claim who they are through their writing.

If you’re a Bread activist or donor, you know Bread and are familiar with the passion for justice that Burge as a Bread staffer stands for and worked for while at Bread. If you care about Africa, have traveled there, or have a passion for international issues, you’ll connect with the themes of this book. Those who don’t have a direct exposure to Africa or developing countries may also find it interesting because it’s the next chapter in a series of historical events that we all lived through.

Stephen H. Padre is the managing editor in Bread’s communications department and also loves South Africa.

Photo: Kimberly Burge, center, during South African Youth Day, Amawz’Entombi reunion. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Burge.

Related Resources