28 12 / 2011
Let me get straight to the point: this book was agonizing. I didn’t finish it before my book club met to discuss because it was just too painful to breeze through. It wasn’t a difficult read because of the writing style. In fact, the the style was easy and quite elementary. The substance, though, was a hard pill to swallow. A hard pill with sharp, dry, jagged edges.
The story is of Mende Nazer, who, while living a somewhat happy and spoiled life in her Nuba village in Northern Africa (save for the intensely detailed female circumcision she endured…be still my heart), was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Arab soldiers who raided her village. She spent her teen and young adult years living as a slave in Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. The memoir shares with us horrible years toiling away in ghastly conditions with no contact with her family, no wages, and no freedom, until her harrowing escape.
Not a good read for the holidays. I think that her story of escape was amazing though, and the issues between Black Africans and Arabs in Sudan were shocking to me, so I am grateful for the knowledge of the horrific relations in this country. But the story is something I would never pick up or recommend to anyone because it was so heartwrenching. I had to put the book down multiple times and just walk away for fear of my soul being destroyed while reading the story of Mende’s life.
This is not for the faint of heart. Even though it was eye opening, and people need to know of these personal experiences so that change can come, I abhor reading books like this. It is nearly impossible for me to give this book a high rating.
I’d prefer not to recommend this book, but if I had to, I’d suggest it to those interested in the Sudanese slave trade, or interested in village life in Northern Africa, especially the Nuba people.