ACROSS BOUNDARIES by Mamphela Ramphele


The Journey of a South African Woman Leader
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 A heartfelt though sometimes ungainly memoir of politics and passion in South Africa. Even if she hadn't been a prominent anti-apartheid activist, Ramphele would still have lived a remarkable life. Born in the rural Northern Transvaal, frustrated by poverty, poor schools, restrictive cultural mores, sexism, and racism, she overcame all these obstacles to become one of the first black women admitted to medical school. South African universities in the 1960s were hotbeds of anti-apartheid activism, and Ramphele soon gravitated toward the black-consciousness-inflected SASO (South African Student Organization). Here she worked with many emerging leaders, including Steve Biko, with whom she fell deeply in love. Though they were both married to others, their affair continued as they graduated to full-time activism. When Biko was banned, restricted to King Williams Town, Ramphele moved nearby and opened a medical clinic for the poor. Her account of the conflicts between the personal and the political, between love and activism, is unusually honest and deeply moving. After she became pregnant with Biko's child, everything seemed to fall apart. She too was banned, sent far away, to a small, dusty village. Then Biko was arrested and murdered by the security police. The shock of his death almost cost Ramphele the baby, and she was incapacitated with grief for months. Eventually, she realized that the best way to heal herself was to continue to fight. She began another clinic and ran it for many years until she was unbanned. Free at last, she moved to Cape Town, earned a Ph.D. in anthropology, and was appointed deputy vice- chancellor at the University of Cape Town. While Ramphele does tend to slip into anthropology-speak and her post-Biko years are described with a certain flatness, her strength, courage, and decency always shine clearly through. (17 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1997
ISBN: 1-55861-165-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997