Zubeida Jaffer writes a beautiful account of the story of a singularly determined young girl who sets out to improve her lot in life through education. It is a story one hears a lot today but when you set it in the context of the late 1880s, you realise what a truly special woman Charlotte Maxeke was. At a time when blacks were supposed to “know their place” she, a black female, punched her way through to achieve her personal goals and then, remarkably, worked for her people to achieve the same. I say remarkably because a stay overseas could easily have turned in to an escape from the hardships back home and yet she used her new found knowledge and education as the reason to go back and, in turn, advance her people.
There are parts, I feel, where the author interferes with the present and makes comments not in keeping with simply telling Charlotte’s story. I would prefer that readers make their own conclusions and, perhaps, be inspired to do the same and more when they perceive the beauty of Charlotte’s heart. This book is a must read for two reasons: Understand why there’s a hospital and other places named after this amazing person and, perhaps more importantly, see what a truly selfless life looks like on your way to becoming a servant leader yourself or sharing this exceptional life with others.