Ruby’s World: My Journey with the Zulu
Author: Karen Baldwin
Reviewed By: Anne Holmes for the NABBW
This is a true story – a memoir that reads like a suspense novel. Author Karen Baldwin, it tells her story of how at 52, after surviving a heart attack and breast cancer, she decided to abandon her career in civil engineering in favor of a spiritual calling. She became a hospital chaplain, and then followed a dream and a spiritual calling to become the first white teacher in a rural Zulu elementary school.
She arrives in South Africa alone, her bags stuffed with books and art supplies for the children she will be teaching. At first her African hosts seemed eager to have her there, helping them to pursue their dreams of providing their “learners” with training in the English language.
But it soon becomes clear that the Zulu’s desire for westernization is often at odds with their life-long cultural practices. She finds the children eager to learn and their teachers anxious to step into the present day, despite the fact that their lives are still governed by strong tribal traditions, including infant scarification, female genital mutilation and the rulings of the witch doctors.
She also learns that in South Africa, there is still an imbalance of power between the sexes. Unless a woman is married, she has no rights to property, a job or freedom. And even if she is married, she is still subservient to her husband.
Travel with Karen to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa with Karen and get to know the students and teachers at Zinti Primary, including Ruby Ndlela, at whose home she stays, and school principal, Phyllis Zondi. This is a trip you will not soon forget.
I won’t tell you too much of the story, you need to experience it for yourself. But suffice it to say that less than two months after a huge welcome, Karen’s survival is threatened and she finds herself afraid for her life, trapped in a concrete room on a locked compound, until she can make her escape.
The book is well-written, and the story is true though all the names have been changed. Once you start reading, you may not be able to put it down. Karen Baldwin says this was an experience that changed her life. And reading it just may change yours.