Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: A Thousand SIsters (Lisa Shannon)

Author: Lisa Shannon
Genre: Adult Non-fiction
Pages: 338
Rating: 4 out of 5
Challenges: Reading from my Shelves, PoC, 
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book
Summary (from Lisa Shannon's website): I had a great life--a successful business, a fiance, a home, and security. But in the wake of my dad's death, and soon-to-be thirty years old, I found myself depressed, camped out in my living room watching Oprah. It was htere that I learned about Congo, widely called the worst place on earth to be a woman. Awakened to the atrocities--millions dead, women being raped and tortured, children starving and dying in shocking numbers--I had to do something.


A Thousand Sisters chronicles how I raised sponsorships for Congolese women, beginning with a solo 30-mile run, and then founded Run for Congo Women. Despite countless warnings, with no credentials, I abandon my quickly collapsing home life and plunge into an unlikely lone journey through eastern Congo on a mission to ignite a movement for the world's most forgotten women, to meet hundreds of my sponsored "sisters," and hear their stories firsthand. But in a place where no man with a gun is the good guy, I confront militias, massacres, murder cover-ups, and unspeakable horror. Along the way I am forced to learn lessons of survival, fear, gratitude, and love from the women of Congo. A Thousand Sisters is a portrait of the world's deadliest war through the intimate lens of friendship. It is a story of passion, hope, and my journey to carve out human bonds that cannot be touched by terror.

Review: I have now read quite a few books on the devastating events in Rwanda, Congo and other East African nations. When we read about it in the news we hear large numbers: 5.4 million dead; 100,000s raped and mutilated, etc. It is easy to be overwhelmed by these numbers and to disassociate ourselves from it all. This book helps to put it all in perspective because we read of one American woman's experience and the individual women she meets along the way. Putting a face on rape, genocide, and disaster is so important.

Lisa Shannon sponsors women in the Democratic Republic of Congo through a group called Women for Women International, a wonderful and effective non-profit founded by Zainab Salbi (author of Between Two Worlds). I sponsor a woman who lives in Kosovo through this organization and one of the things that hit me hardest while reading this book is that the women in Congo (or Kosovo or wherever) love receiving letters from their "sisters" in America. This is one of the main ideas behind Women for Women International: a connection between two women. I have guilt. I have only written one letter to my Kosovo sister. I have no vowed to write a letter every 3 months.

While this book is well written and is very interesting, the strength of it comes from the personal interactions the author has with the Congolese women. We read their unbelievable stories, hear their sorrows, their hopes, and their dreams. Lisa Shannon is very honest about her interactions and emotions while in Congo. She doesn't always behave well, digs too deep into the pain these women suffered, and doesn't always "get it". She also sees that there isn't a good solution and that no one is really trying very hard to fix the problems. But that's the beauty of this book: it is raw and honest and therefore is important to read.
    Geography Connection:
    (photo credit: Lisa Shannon)
    Click to see my updated Google Map. This is such a powerful topic and issue that just doesn't seem to have any practical solutions. Here are other books I've read on connected topics:



    7 comments:

    Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

    Helen wow does this sounds amazing and what you said here just sold me 100%I have to read this... I have to!

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Sheila--This is a really intense book, but brings up such important issues. I hope you do get around to reading it

    Aths said...

    I read somewhere recently that Congo is the one country that's never in our news, in spite of them having suffered as much as Rwanda and Zimbabwe. It's tragic when you see those numbers. I'll be glad to add this to my TBR.

    Mari said...

    I'm so glad you liked this book. I keep it on my nightstand so I never forget. I also donate/sponsor through WoW... a powerful organization!

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Aths--Cong is definitely not on our radar here in the US. I think the problem is that they don't have any resources worth our effort. Such a sad commentary!

    Mari--I just wrote my WOW sister a letter yesterday and have put a letter-writing reminder on my calendar for every 3 months so that I don't forget

    Angie @ By Book or By Crook said...

    It definitely does look like an intense book. It's so easy to forget the struggles of others when we have it so easy here at home. Thanks for your review!

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Angie--It is definitely easy to forget what others are going through when it is so far away, not in the news, and so awful you can't really imagine it happening.