“I knew both the author and the subject of this book from a Stanford class in African politics. As a black South African, I had considerable anti-white grievance, but Steve and Amy in their life choices laid bare the dangers of my single story, even more so when Amy died so tragically in my hometown. As race relations seem to be unraveling on both sides of the Atlantic, this impressive work of scholarship about the entangled histories of South Africa and the United States comes at an opportune time.”
Jonathan Jansen, Distinguished Professor, University of Stellenbosch
“If ever there was a book for our time, this is it. Amy Biehl's story is painful and inspirational, and Steven D. Gish has captured both in his extraordinary recounting of Biehl's journey during some of the most challenging times on the continent and in South Africa in particular. While some may struggle to fathom why this young white scholar chose to walk alongside South Africans on their often-dangerous path to democracy, Gish's masterful book provides answers in her own words and those of others who understood her passion and her commitment. Amy Biehl's Last Home is a book that can and should inspire us all.”
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, author and longtime African affairs journalist
“Amy Biehl’s Last Home will, for all its accessibility to a general readership, be of value to scholars of the South African transition, of the impact of South African events on the United States, and of what Gish calls ‘forgiveness studies.’”
Christopher Saunders, University of Cape Town
“Gish brings new insights to the story of Amy Biehl, her death, and the family's coming to peace with the tragedy … His knowledge as an historian of modern South Africa gives nuance and depth to this inspiring story of commitment, sacrifice, and forgiveness.”
John Hennessy, President, Stanford University, 2000–2016
In 1993, twenty-six-year-old white American Fulbright scholar Amy Biehl was killed in a racially motivated attack near Cape Town, after spending months working to promote democracy and women’s rights in South Africa. The ironic circumstances of her death generated enormous international publicity and yielded one of South Africa’s most heralded stories of postapartheid reconciliation. Amy’s parents not only established a humanitarian foundation to serve the black township where she was killed, but supported amnesty for her killers and hired two of the young men to work for the Amy Biehl Foundation. The Biehls were hailed as heroes by Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and many others in South Africa and the United States—but their path toward healing was neither quick nor easy.
Granted unrestricted access to the Biehl family’s papers, Steven Gish brings Amy and the Foundation to life in ways that have eluded previous authors. With narrative aplomb and scholarly authority in equal measure, he is the first to place Biehl’s story in its full historical context, while also presenting a gripping portrait of this remarkable young woman and the aftermath of her death across two continents. Written for scholars and general readers alike, it is masterful in its scope and devastating in its storytelling.
Steven D. Gish is a professor of history at Auburn University at Montgomery. His previous books include Alfred B. Xuma: African, American, South African and Desmond Tutu: A Biography. He has traveled widely in South Africa since the 1980s and has interviewed key figures in the antiapartheid movement, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Desmond Tutu, Trevor Huddleston, and Beyers Naudé.
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