Reviews for THE BORN FREES


“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. … This is a troubling but inspiring read.”

Publishers Weekly 


“Burge’s group provided a safe space for girls to gather without fear of judgement. Writing became an outlet for many involved, and the club itself grew into a platform to share thoughts about issues that matter the most to the girls. … Incredible and inspiring, this account belongs in every library and on every bookshelf.”

Library Journal (Starred Review)


“These young people, [Burge] writes, ‘were inheriting a country awash in contradictions.’ Its constitution was among the most progressive in the world, prohibiting discrimination on every axis and mandating gender equality. Yet, Burge notes, the abuse of women is endemic: ‘More than a third of girls have experienced sexual violence before the age of eighteen,’ she writes, while young women are particularly at risk of contracting HIV. The writing club she founded was not a development project as such…but was a means of providing community, empowerment, and a voice. … An affecting portrait of post-apartheid South Africa, particularly useful for writing instructors serving at-risk constituencies.”



“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. Their fortitude and wisdom is as inspiring as it is humbling.”

—AMANA FONTANELLA-KHAN, author of Pink Sari Revolution