“Of course, the very act of writing this coming-of-age story forced me to admit that I will never be the wise she-warrior cum world-saver I once believed I would, that I am just another person struggling to make my life ‘mean something’, whatever that means.”

Twenty-three-year-old Jillian Reilly went to southern Africa in 1993 at the close of apartheid, desperate to do good. She only planned to stay for six months, but the promise of playing savior was just too great. Jillian’s career in the aid industry flourished. To all the world, she looked like a successful ‘do-gooder’ — even a precocious one. If only she weren’t being suffocated by her own sense of futility. Jillian left southern Africa in 2000 quite clear that the only person she could save was herself. Shame is her story: the story of a young American woman growing up, and old, in Africa. Realizing her own limitations, and the sorry realities of the big business of doing good.

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