Friday, August 07, 2015

Kimberly Burge Reads Excerpts of 'The Born Frees' to a Packed House

Photo: Jennifer Coulter-Stapleton
 "I met Annasuena soon after I arrived in South Africa in January of 2010. I was to live there for a year as a Fulbright Scholar and lead a creative writing club for teenage girls at J. L. Zwane Presbyterian Church and Community Center in Gugulethu, a black township about ten miles outside Cape Town. She became one of the first members of the club, which we named Amazw’Entombi. In Xhosa, it means “Voices of the Girls.” Annasuena and all the other girls who joined Amazw’ Entombi were part of the Born Frees, the first generation of black South Africans born after apartheid and coming of age in a newly democratic nation, following the 1994 elections that made Nelson Mandela South Africa’s first black president."  excerpts from Chapter 1 of The Born Frees (published in the Salon website).
The Langston Room at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V Street in Washington, D.C., was filled to capacity. The audience of perhaps 100 people was comprised of friends of author Kimberly Burge and others who might have seen the listing in the bookstore's events schedule or in The Washington Post as as one of the "Top 5 Free Things  to do in Washington, D.C., during the week of Aug. 3-9." They were all here to join with Kimberly (and a group of young women in South Africa) in the launch of  the The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu.

Photo:Martha McLaughlin
The author read excerpts from her book to an attentive and entranced audience. Among those in the crowd was Bob Schminkey, a friend of Kimberly's who has taken several tour groups to South Africa. Schminkey found some familiarity in the narrative. "As Kimberly read from The Born Frees, I closed my eyes and was transported back to Cape Town and JL Zwane Church," said Schminkey, who like the author is a member of the extended Bread for the World community.

After the reading, a dialogue ensued between the author and the audience in a question-and-answer session. "The audience was wonderfully engaged, and really asked some probing questions about the sustainability of something like a writing club, how the girls thought about race in America (they don't much, but this experience has made ME think a lot more about it -- not to mention the last few years), and how writing the book has affected my life. Still figuring that one out," said Burge. 

The consensus among those in attendance at the Busboys and Poets event (and prominent book reviewers like Kirkus) is that this is a well-written and engaging work. (Busboys and Poets sold all its available copies that evening!)  "This is a wonderful book that will be my go-to intro book to South Africa from now on," said Schminkey.  "The book is a nice history of South Africa, woven through the stories of the girls of Gugulethu and the story of Kimberly herself."

Buy the Book
You can acquire the book from Kimberly Burge's website, from your independent bookstore or the publisher's site. The Born Frees is also available via one of your big box chain bookstores and a popular online merchant. (But we encourage you to patronize the independent bookstores).

"Incredible and inspiring, this account belongs in every library and on every bookshelf."

- Library Journal (starred review)

I'm sure you've seen the description of the book before, but perhaps your family and friends are not aware of this great work. So here is a paragraph to share with them.  "The young women of South Africa’s first post-apartheid generation are coming of age amid myriad challenges, including AIDS, poverty, and violence. To help empower them to take charge of their lives, Burge, a Washington-based journalist, established a writing group in Gugulethu, a township near Cape Town. Rich with the work from the participants of Amazw’Entombi—Voices of the Girls—Burge’s book introduces spirited and talented individuals intent on a better future for all."

No comments: