Miss A Columnist

World-traveler, blogger, book lover… finding beauty everywhere she looks. Mina De Caro is Italian, born and raised in small-town Southern Italy, close to medieval castles and archeological sites. She is now based in Pennsylvania where she lives with her family, but there are three different countries in the world that she has the pleasure to call home. Mina graduated summa cum laude from the University of Bari in Italy with a Master's Degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures. Visual arts, traveling and her blog Mina’s Bookshelf are her favorite hobbies. With a background as export manager and a wide experience as international sales specialist, the only lands she hasn't had the chance to touch yet are the Artica/Antartica and Oceania. In an era of high-tech gadgets and electronic readers, Mina is very protective of her books, so whatever she is reading follows her around the house… with two little kids you never know when and where a crayon may leave a mark.

Review Of Ruby’s World: My Journey With The Zulu By Karen Baldwin

(Photo Credit: Karen Baldwin)

(Photo Credit: Karen Baldwin)

Sometimes the most riveting stories don’t need to be pieces of pure fictional fabrication populated by imaginary characters. In 2008, heart-attack and breast-cancer survivor Karen Baldwin decided to leave her San Francisco life behind and spend three months in a rural village in South Africa 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, she was 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 discrimination 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. Last August 2012, in fact, the New Mexico author became the first Ambassador for the Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa and will attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women hearing in the Spring 2013.

The Verdict: Ruby’s World is 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.

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: Apocryphile Press
Author: Karen Baldwin

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