Archive for June, 2009

Long Time, No Post and Books about Sudan

Okay, so I’m not so great about posting to this blog.  It’s actually been something on my to-do list for a few weeks as a reminder that I need to post.  I wanted to post about two books, autobiographies I’ve read that cover what happened in Sudan starting back in the late 1980s and the genocide in Dafur.

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan

Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak

These three boys (two brothers and a cousin) tell how at the age of 4, 5, and 7 about the attacks on their villages and how they how to walk thousands of miles across hostile lands and even a desert.  They survived attacks, extreme hunger, loss of their families and other tragedies that would kill other children.  They did this along with thousands of other boys, some as young as 3 and 4 years old.  They have a faith in God and each other that they will survive.  They don’t give up hope.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

“Raised by Sudan’s Dinka tribe, the Deng brothers and their cousin Benjamin were all under the age of seven when they left their homes after terrifying attacks on their villages during the Sudanese civil war. In 2001, the three were relocated to the U.S. from Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp as part of an international refugee relief program. Arriving in this country, they immediately began to fill composition books with the memoirs of chaos and culture shock collected here. Well written, often poetic essays by Benson, Alepho and Benjamin, who are now San Diego residents in their mid-20s, are arranged in alternating chapters and recall their childhood experiences, their treacherous trek and their education in the camp (“People were learning under trees”). Other pieces remember the rampant disease and famine among refugees, and the tremendous hardship of day-to-day living (“Refugee life was like being devoured by wild animals”). When the boys arrived in America, Benson, upon seeing a Wal-Mart for the first time, remarked, “This is like a king’s palace.” Although some readers may wish for more commentary on what life in America is like for these transplants, this collection is moving in its depictions of unbelievable courage.”

I was very intent on reading this book in one setting and am grateful these boys are alive to tell their story and help others understand what happened to them.

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Dafur

Halima Bashir

Halima Bashir is a Sudenese Muslim.  This doesn’t mean much when she is young.  She tells the story of her family, about gaining two brothers, her grandmother whom she has difficulties with, and school.  She had difficulties in school that come from her ethnic backgroung.  She eventually learns how Arabs (white skinned individual who are descendant from the original Arabs) have taken over all the good jobs, dictate how everyone is to be treated, etc.  All Halima wants is to be a doctor to help the women in her village.  She eventually becomes a doctor.  Attacks by soldiers and government officials against “rebels” heat up.  At one point, 40 school girls are raped and she had to treat them.  Eventually, tragically, she herself is raped.  She is run out of her country and has to leave for her own safety.  She gets to England but that isn’t a happy ending.  She has to fight to gain asylum and her application for asylum fails many times before it is approved.  Nobody believes what is going on in Dafur a main reason why her case for asylum is rejected.  The government says that it is safe for her to go back when it is not.  Halima meets up with her husband and eventually has a son.  The story does not have a happy ending.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

“Writing with BBC correspondent Lewis (Slave), Bashir, a physician and refugee living in London, offers a vivid personal portrait of life in the Darfur region of Sudan before the catastrophe. Doted on by her father, who bucked tradition to give his daughter an education, and feisty grandmother, who bequeathed a fierce independence, Bashir grew up in the vibrant culture of a close-knit Darfur village. (Its darker side emerges in her horrific account of undergoing a clitoridectomy at age eight.) She anticipated a bright future after medical school, but tensions between Sudan’s Arab-dominated Islamist dictatorship and black African communities like her Zaghawa tribe finally exploded into conflict. The violence the author recounts is harrowing: the outspoken Bashir endured brutal gang-rapes by government soldiers, and her village was wiped out by marauding Arab horsemen and helicopter gunships. This is a vehement cri de coeur—I wanted to fight and kill every Arab, to slaughter them, to drive them out of the country, the author thought upon treating girls who had been raped and mutilated—but in showing what she suffered, and lost, Bashir makes it resonate.”

From Booklist:

“Bashir’s story of her life in Darfur is difficult to read largely because so much of it is ordinary. She recounts growing up in a loving family, attending school, and, with the strong support of her father, becoming a doctor. After she enters professional life, civil war comes to her doorstep, and her life is torn apart. She witnesses horrible suffering and is herself brutally treated by the Janjaweed, the armed militias fighting with the tacit approval of the Sudanese government. As a “black African,” Bashir recalls years of discrimination from ruling Arab Africans, but the spreading war accelerates the violence to epic and devastating levels. After fleeing to Britain, she finds herself in a new battle to prove that the nightmare in her country is real. Bashir is now a powerful voice for the victims of Darfur, speaking out on numerous painful subjects, from her own genital mutilation to rape and the loss of her family. Harsh in its honesty, Bashir’s chronicle is shocking and disturbing. An unforgettable tragedy. –Colleen Mondor”

I recommend reading both.  They give a wonderful overview of what it was like for those who had to live in Sudan and Dafur.  They understand the heartache and tragedy that the mass media refused to acknowledge or show.


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