Among the Maasai: A Memoir

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She Writes Press, Sep 10, 2019 - Biography & Autobiography - 291 pages
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In 1999, Juliet Cutler leaves the United States to teach at the first school for Maasai girls in East Africa. Captivated by the stories of young Maasai women determined to get an education in the midst of a culture caught between the past and the future, she seeks to empower and support her students as they struggle to define their own fates. Cutler soon learns that behind their shy smiles and timid facades, her Maasai students are much stronger than they appear. For them, adolescence requires navigating a risky world of forced marriages, rape, and genital cutting, all in the midst of a culture grappling with globalization. In the face of these challenges, these young women believe education offers hope, and so, against all odds, they set off alone―traveling hundreds of miles and even forsaking their families―simply to go to school. Twenty years of involvement with this school and its students reveal to Cutler the important impacts of education across time, as well as the challenges inherent in tackling issues of human rights and extreme poverty across vastly different cultures. Working alongside local educators, Cutler emerges transformed by the community she finds in Tanzania and by witnessing the life-changing impact of education on her students. Proceeds from the sale of this book support education for at-risk Maasai girls.
 

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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
Among the Maasai by Juliet Cutler is a memoir recounting the two years the author spent living and teaching in Tanzania at the end of the 1990s
. Arriving with preconceived ideas and expectations, nothing was as she had imagined. She describes her feelings of being ‘on show’ with her white skin making her very conspicuous, the shock at the levels of poverty, the comparison with the society in which she had grown up. While there were mental challenges to adjust to, there were also practical problems too – a shortage of water, no internet, lack of familiar foods and necessities, the dangers of the local wildlife. Traveling with her fiancÚ, Juliet was seconded to the first Secondary School for Girls catering to the Maasai, a partly nomadic tribe spread across Kenya and Tanzania and viewed by other tribes in those countries as primitive. It had taken months of negotiations to set up and run a school.
Like many young people traveling overseas to third world countries to work among the disadvantaged, Juliet’s wish was to help educate and uplift the lives of the young girls she was employed to teach English. Fresh out of college, with little experience, she had no idea what to expect. This book is beautifully written and should be on the prescribed reading list for all schools to create an understanding of a culture that is so often misunderstood. I could relate to her experiences, applaud her soul-searching and her questioning of whether foreign aid is a blessing or a curse. She understands the fine balance between imposing a different culture and gently easing young people into the modern world. Encountering practices such as FGM, child marriage and girls sold for a few cows was a culture shock and in Among the Maasai, Juliet Cutler shares her sorrows and triumphs with the young girls she grew to love. As she says, "you will always have Africa inside you." A wonderful book; it made me laugh and cry as I feverishly turned the pages. A book written with love which showed such empathy. I loved it. I wish I could give it more than 5 stars.
 

Contents

Americastle
Karibu Tena
Honeymooning at Lake Manyara
Dinahs Education
Hoping for School Choice
Gideon the Mighty Warrior
Never a Stranger Always a Guest CHAPTER 24 Without Water
A Safe House for Miriam

Like a Stranger in the Night
Life Inside the Bell Jar CHAPTER 9 Mwalimu Mgeni
Leading from Behind
Womanhood
Diamonds in the Darkness
Through Maasai Eyes
A Grandmothers Touch
The First Graduation
Mama Machungwa
Never Say Goodbye
No Longer a Girl
Moving Mountains with Teaspoons
Afterword
Acknowledgments
Swahili Maa to English Glossary
Notes Author Biography
Copyright

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About the author (2019)

Juliet Cutler regularly returns to Tanzania and serves as an advocate for girls’ education worldwide. As a writer, her literary and professional publications number more than two dozen, and she has taught writing in many settings. She holds an MA in English from Colorado State University and a BS in education from the University of North Dakota. When she’s not writing, Juliet consults as an education and exhibition specialist for museums, parks, and cultural centers throughout the world.

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