“ . . . the choice is not between change or no change, the choice for Africa is between changing or being changed.” —Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania
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.
“Cutler deftly conveys how her work transformed her life in deep and significant ways with empathy, grace, honesty, respect, and sensitivity to the Maasai people and their culture . . . a must-read for anyone in development practice, girls’ education, women and gender empowerment, and cultural studies.”
—Damaris Parsitau, PhD, Religion and Gender Studies, Harvard University; Echidna Global Scholar 2017, Brookings Institution; Maasai leader and founder of Let Maasai Girls Learn
“Juliet Cutler observes complex juxtapositions—intersections of wealth and poverty, modern and traditional, insider and outsider. She asks herself difficult questions—about her place in the business of helping, her motives, and the limits of her role as a teacher from a different culture. But there is powerful sophistication in her questions and in this beautiful account of transformation.”
—Daudi Msseemmaa, senior adviser to Mwangaza Education for Partnership
“In a world where white saviors in Africa tend to reign supreme, Among the Maasai is a breath of fresh air. . . . this exceptional narrative is compelling, honest, and real. Cutler’s writing cuts through preconceived notions of what it means to cross borders and build relationships.”
—Daniel Ruth, executive director of Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry
“A thoroughly engaging and meaningful look into the struggles confronted by many indigenous societies today and the challenges faced by the educators who are at the forefront during these rapidly changing times.”
—Kenneth Cushner, EdD, Professor Emeritus, International Education, Kent State University, author of Teacher as Traveler and Beyond Tourism
“Few writers are gifted with Cutler’s graceful ability to step back when necessary, balancing between her roles as narrator, observer, and participant. Among the Maasai is a must-read for anyone dedicated to the uplifting of women by women, the gender-education gap, and the beauty of perseverance.”
—Camille Griep, editor of Easy Street: A Magazine of Words and Culture, communications director for Prison Renaissance, author of New Charity Blues and Letters to Zell
“This is a credible, brave work that reflects the stark realities faced by girls from the majority of Maasai society and the hurdles they face to achieving educational liberation.”
—Nengai Lazaro Benton, English teacher and graduate of the Maasai Secondary School for Girls
“With courage, Juliet Cutler confronts the complexities of privilege, race, culture, and self-doubt, as well as the paradox of helping others. She emerges transformed by lifelong friendships and with the conviction that empowering local leaders makes a profound difference. Among the Maasai is a compelling must-read for anyone working in developing countries.”
—Deborah Griffin, LCSW, former chair of La Gonave Haiti Partners
“Juliet Cutler’s insights into the lives and challenges of the Maasai people make for a compelling read and honest look behind the veneer of village life often seen by tourists.”
—Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman, PhD, coauthors of The Leopard Tree
“This brave and heartfelt account of Juliet Cutler’s journey in Tanzania is an inspiring and important work. Through the intersection of her story with the extraordinary experiences of her young Maasai students, Juliet reveals the transformative power of education.”
—Herta Feely, author of Saving Phoebe Murrow
“This book is beautifully written and should be on the prescribed reading list for all schools. . . . It made me laugh and cry as I feverishly turned the pages. I loved it.”
—Lucinda E Clarke for Readers’ Favorite
“This fascinating memoir chronicles the courage and tenacity of a young couple teaching in the heart of Africa. Juliet Cutler presents a frank account of the moral dilemmas she encounters as she plunges into a tribal society where young girls face many challenges, yet generosity thrives. Prepare to be inspired by the true stories of girls who struggle against repressive traditions to become educated young women making a difference in the world.”
—Gayle Woodson, author of After Kilimanjaro