Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Kindle Edition
Published 2011 by Apocryphile Press 
Genre: memoirs, autobiography
Rating: 5 stars plus

"My hope of making a big difference  may have been naive. Not trying would have been worse."

What a terrific book! Knowing that there are people like Karen Baldwin in this world warmed my heart...reading about the incredible challenges she had to face in her attempt to bring hope and relief to the children of a small rural village in South Africa broke my heart and had me in tears...learning to which extent her life had been in danger and how close the threats were the entire time she spent in Zinti, made my blood run cold...understanding how stubbornly some cultures resist and fear change simply disheartening...having faith that some day these cultures will embrace the change and keep working toward that goal, very hard but necessary.
Sometimes the most riveting stories don't need to be pieces of pure fictional fabrication populated by imaginary characters. In 2008 Karen Baldwin, heart-attack and breast-cancer survivor, decided to leave her San Francisco life behind and spend three months in a South African rural village, teaching English at a local elementary school.  Her life changing experience as the first white teacher among the Zulu started as a humanitarian dream but ended up as a nightmare, unexpectedly and at the hands of the same people who had warmly welcomed and hosted her. Only few weeks after her arrival in the rural village of Zinti, in fact, her journey came dramatically to an end, turning out to be completely different from what she had anticipated.
Karen's struggle with language barriers, her sense of dislocation and isolation,  the environmental and cultural hostility, even the abominable "social practices" (infants scarification, female genital mutilation, black magic) that played in front of her candid outsider eyes, didn't prevent her from bonding with her host (Ruby) and her family:

"As a guest in their culture I'm committed to being an observer, not a critic."

But Karen felt absolutely powerless and deflated in front of the most fundamental differences between Ruby's world and the fortunate and privileged condition we get to enjoy as citizens of a western democracy: for us it's easier to bridge the gap between the way things are and the way we want them to be. In the African continent, so often considered the "womb" of the human race, thick layers of ancient traditions, cultural prejudices and gender discriminations set insurmountable  barriers on the way to freedom and social justice.
I was deeply touched by this outstanding account of Karen Baldwin's true life experience in the heart of traditional Africa. In the form of a daily journal, her well-paced and fluid narration opens a window on the ongoing tragedy of a continent torn between  taboos, gender inequities, power struggles and shifting loyalties. Not only Karen's memoirs put in a new perspective our own starry-eyed views in matter of human rights and democratic society, they also teach that with bitterness and tragedy comes the powerful seed of hope.
A real jaw dropper...a work of fiction couldn't have been written with more soul and deeper emotional intensity. Thought-provoking, suspenseful, engaging at all times, this excellent book was effortlessly well-paced and executed with a captivating and vibrant writing style. Highly recommended.

*This review is based on a complimentary e-copy kindly offered by DM Productions LLC in return of an unbiased opinion. 


The author would like to offer UNLOCKING THE DREAM, the prequel to Ruby's  World, for FREE! To receive your FREE COPY click HERE, enter your information in the form provided, and you'll receive an email with the link to your free copy. THIS OFFER IS VALID ONLY UNTIL NOVEMBER 30.



  1. Your review sent this book straight to my To Be Read FIRST list!

  2. Prepare a box of tissues, Maryellen...it won't leave your soul and your eyes dry.