APRIL 1 UPDATE:
THRILLED to have met goal and incredibly grateful for all the people who've offered support!!
If you’re here for the first time or a return visitor to the page and thinking about giving a gift, PLEASE KNOW that any additional funds would be greatly helpful as well. Trips like this always have additional expenses. And a new idea has emerged....
I'd LOVE to have a "writer’s retreat" with the girls while I’m in Cape Town. Hopefully overnight, or at least all day, somewhere beautiful, maybe out on the peninsula near the Cape of Good Hope. Time away from Gugulethu, for them to have a chance to write about where they are in their lives now, what writing has meant to them, and what they see in their futures. I think this would make a great epilogue for the book, and especially in the girls’ own words.
Additional gifts will help make that retreat happen!
Enkosi -- THANK YOU -- so much for helping raise the Voices of the Girls!
“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The Born Frees are setting their words down on paper. They’re finding their voices. And together, we’re telling their stories.
Will you join with us?
The Backstory: “Voices of the Girls”
In 2010, I left behind a career working in communications for DC nonprofits to go to South Africa as a Fulbright Scholar. I had just completed an MFA in nonfiction writing, and I was ready to write my first book. As I was trying to find my voice as a writer, I wanted to help others do the same. So I spent a year leading a creative writing club for teen-aged girls in Gugulethu, a township ten miles outside Cape Town. They named the group Amazw’Entombi -- “Voices of the Girls,” in Xhosa.
THE BORN FREES: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu will be a narrative nonfiction account of several members of the club. My book is the first that tells the stories of this generation of black South African girls “born free” and coming of age after the end of apartheid, and the first that incorporates the words of girls themselves, their poetry and prose.
Along with racial liberation, they inherited a country plagued by poverty. They’ve lost mothers and fathers, to AIDS and violence. In a place where the rape of women--and even little girls--is widespread, some have lost things they struggle to name. And still, they act like girls. They’re fun and funny, resilient and smart as a whip. They come together around the power of their own words. Their spirits, their writing, and the power of their insight--about themselves and about their beloved country--continue to astonish me.
Where the Book Stands Now -- And What It Still Needs
I’m beyond thrilled that my book is under contract with W.W. Norton, one of the best publishers in the world. THE BORN FREES will be published in 2014, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections. I’ve previously written about South Africa for The Atlantic and Sojourners, and as a fellow through the International Reporting Project.
As wonderful a publisher as Norton is, a book about girls in South Africa in 2013 earns only a modest book deal. So I’m funding the research and writing of this book myself. I don’t have any organizational or academic backing. As a freelance writer, I also don’t have a steady salary.
My manuscript is due to Norton in October 2013. I need one final trip to South Africa to complete research for the book, to see what’s happening in the girls’ lives now. I also want to conduct interviews with in-country experts so I can understand and convey to readers the challenges these girls face, now and in a future South Africa.
A plane ticket to Cape Town averages $1,500. Other major expenses include car rental, gas, lodging, food, and an internet data plan to send updates about this project. I hope to stay at least a month, traveling there by April. Any additional funds raised beyond my set goal will allow me to extend the trip, and maybe also provide some financial cushion as I finish writing the book back in DC.
This book truly is a labor of love. I love South Africa, I love these girls, and I know you'll love them, too.
What You’ll Receive
It takes a village, right? Welcome to our village!
You will partner with me to get the story of these amazing girls out into the world, helping them to raise their own voices. And I want to show my gratitude to you with some special gifts -- a thank-you photo card, a sneak preview of a chapter-in-progress, a listing in the acknowledgements when the book is in print, a session of the creative writing club (via Skype or in person), a handcrafted gift from South Africa. So choose your support level (on the right) and enjoy the rewards!
When the book’s in bookstores and available online next year, you’ll know you played an important role in bringing it out and making it as compelling as possible.
Other Ways You Can Help
Even if you can’t contribute, please help to spread the word about The Born Frees and this campaign. Find us on Facebook for regular updates. And look for The Born Frees: Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu when it’s out in 2014!
Enkosi. Thank you.
Team on This Campaign: