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review 2018-01-15 19:36
A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo
A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa - Alexis Okeowo

This is a short nonfiction work by a Nigerian-American journalist that goes behind the headlines in four conflict areas in Africa, telling the stories of people who range from victims to local leaders. It is a very engaging book, a quick read that introduces readers to several countries and humanizes big events, although at only 236 pages for so many stories, it is very brief and therefore unable to treat its subjects with the depth I would have liked.

Eunice is a teenage girl living in rural northern Uganda when she is kidnapped by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army while visiting her sister at boarding school. Once in the bush, she is forced to marry Bosco, a young man also kidnapped as a teenager, and both are forced to participate in acts of violence. By the time both eventually escape, they have children together, and Eunice, like many young women whose futures are circumscribed by LRA kidnapping, decides to return to Bosco. Former rebels are given amnesty to encourage defection, but the couple faces ostracism from their community and seems to be passing on their trauma to their children.

Biram is a Mauritanian activist, growing up in a socially conscious family in the last country in the world to outlaw slavery (it became illegal in 1981, but not a criminal offense until 2007), and one where the police remain uninterested in bringing wealthy slaveowners to justice. He starts an organization dedicated to eradicating slavery, rescues slaves directly and draws attention to the cause by risky acts like publicly burning the books used to justify slavery under Muslim law (though he is Muslim himself). Later he expands his focus to other racial justice issues and runs for president of Mauritania.

Abba, aka Elder, is an auditor and patriarch of a large family in northern Nigeria when Boko Haram gains traction in the area. Frustrated by the lack of government response to the attacks, he joins a local vigilante group that captures militants and hands them over to security forces, proving far more effective than the actual military. He becomes a leader in the group and moves into politics as well. Meanwhile, Rebecca is a teenage boarding school student in nearby Chibok when she is kidnapped by Boko Haram along with 300 classmates. Fortunately, she is one of the 50-odd with the courage and presence of mind to quickly escape, and gradually overcomes her trauma while returning to school in a distant city.

Finally, Aisha is a teenage girl in Mogadishu, Somalia, who refuses to let al-Shabaab terrorists intimidate her out of playing basketball. They certainly try – she receives regular death threats by phone, is nearly kidnapped and has a gun pointed at her on a bus – and another female player is brutally murdered. But Aisha is determined to live her own life, and she and her teammates find joy in the game and treasure rare opportunities to participate in tournaments, despite the lack of government support.

These are all fascinating stories, though the subtitle doesn’t quite fit anyone other than perhaps Aisha: Biram and Elder are leaders, not ordinary people, while Rebecca is a survivor but not exactly fighting extremism, and Eunice and Bosco remain victims. Each story is told in two chapters, one in the first half of the book and the other in the second, and the second half provides much of the emotional consequences and complexity that seemed to be missing from the first half. Of course the circumstances of these people’s lives, and the strength required to keep going, is extraordinary to the Western reader. This book tells very compelling stories in a quick and accessible way; for me it is too quick (each of these stories deserves its own book), but it provides a great introduction while telling human stories behind events in the headlines.

My other reservation is the fact that the book cites no sources, and the author tells us nothing about her research other than what happens to come out in the text as she relates her experiences in meeting these folks. She generally applies critical thought to the stories people tell her – for instance, she includes the accusations of brutality against Elder’s group – but sometimes seems to accept simplistic stories, as in the 9-page life story of a Mauritanian slave that seems to be a chronicle of constant abuse. Though the author seems to do her research, it’s never clear how well the stories are corroborated.

Despite that, I think this is a great premise for a book and these stories are engaging, emotional, and well-told, with enough background information included for readers unfamiliar with these countries to understand their contexts. I recommend it.

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review 2017-06-02 08:08
WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY BY
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories - Lesley Nneka Arimah

WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY

Lesley Nneka Arimah

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (April 4, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735211027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735211025
  •  

    Lesley Nneka Arimah debut is a collection of short stories set in Nigeria and the US. Each short story is complete, solid, clear, and well written. I love her characters, strong, straight forward, and genuine. Lesley Nneka Arimah writing shows humor, horror, and shock in some places, yet her characters and plots flow naturally, and are engaging. I found myself immersed into each story. Her incredible grasp of language and the powerful way in which she uses it to form a story is unique, and captivating. Definitely something I would reread, and recommend

     

    ***Thank you to Penguin House and Riverhead Books for the print copy I received through a giveaway in exchange for a fair review.****

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review 2016-10-23 10:16
Christiana of Chibok- David Damey

   I enjoyed this high adrenalin short story, and yes there is no crime in that, but don’t ever forget to reflect on the truths told by fiction. That the subject matter uses the backdrop of the real story of the 276 abducted, imprisoned and abused girls, taken from their secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, makes it deeply poignant.

   I have no idea if any of the story is based on detailed fact, but am sure that all of it has been experienced in individual realities. That it represents well enough the actual conditions faced by the girls is evident enough from the reports that have seeped out. A number of these women, for that is what cruel life quickly made them, have got back to their homes, each, hopefully, to eventually find the strength to report their own harrowing experiences. However, as I write in October 2016 we hear that about 200 of the original group are still missing, as they have been for the last two and a half years.

   I would like to think that this well written, powerful, drama, helps to raise the conscious of the world, though little seems too move governments to action unless there’s some promise of gaining political or economic influence. As a reader I assume that this Christiana is a fiction, though at least one girl of that name was taken. I hope all readers use the story as a spring-board towards finding out more, and then helping spread the word. Too few are doing enough to end the victims’ nightmare.

   The writing is very exciting, and should be a disturbing, read for all of us that sleep comfortably at night. The action is centred on the bravery in one girl’s struggle to survive. Let all the screams be heard.

AMAZON LINK

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url 2016-05-05 01:52
A hunger for romance in northern Nigeria

Women and girls in northern Nigeria have a voracious appetite for romantic fiction that is taking on conservative attitudes in this largely Muslim region.

Written in the local Hausa language by women for women, Kano city's equivalent of the Mills and Boons industry, known as "Litattafan Soyayya", is a booming business.

 

Nigerian women

 

Read more here.

Source: www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36172123
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review 2016-04-17 23:14
Disappearance in Nigeria
And After Many Days - Jowhor Ile

This is the story of a 17-year-old boy, Paul Utu, who walks out of his home in Nigeria one day in 1995 and doesn't return. His family is torn apart by his disappearance and struggles to go on with their lives without Paul. Paul was the oldest son in this family and was much loved and admired. The youngest brother, Ajie, is riddled with guilt since he was the last one to see Paul and he feels responsible in some way for his brother’s disappearance. The book goes back in time and details the family's relationship to each other.

 

I enjoyed reading of the everyday activities of this strong, loving family. I admired these family members and thought the author did a very good job detailing their lives in Nigeria and the havoc that Paul's disappearance caused them. But then the book veers off into stories of political unrest and the powerful oil corporations. That's when the book began to lose me and by the time it turned around again and got back to Paul's disappearance, I had lost the connection to that part of the story. There are moments of pure poetical beauty in this book and while I'm sure one of the author's main intents in writing this book was to bring to light the Nigerian politics of the time, I wish he had stayed on the course that the beginning chapters promised. The violence of the political atmosphere in Nigeria does have a connection with Paul's disappearance but that part of the book did cause me to lose interest. If this author writes another book that isn’t as politically grounded, I’d be interested in reading it.

 

This book was given to me by the publisher through Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

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