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Emma's War Paperback – February 10, 2004
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
"Breathtaking and beautifully written. . . . Deborah Scroggins weaves the greater issues of Sudan around [Emma] McCune’s idealism.” –USA Today
“Brilliantly penetrating. . . . In [Emma McCune] Scroggins has found a feckless, captivating subject, as insufferable as the white man's insatiable need for redemption in Africa…. Scroggins undoes every illusion about aid, hunger and rebellion.” –Washington Post
“A wonderful, challenging book. . . . One of the best that I have ever read on the difficult relationship between the developed world and the Third World.” —William Shawcross, Sunday Times (London)
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Top Customer Reviews
What I like so much about this book is that it never takes sides; Scroggins is somewhat sympathetic towards Emma, but never apologetic over her (sometimes) inhumane actions. This book also really illuminates the situation in Darfur now, and how the conflict of the last 20 years has fueled the current crisis there. I'd call it a must-read for anyone interested in the region, and anyone struggling to understand the conflicts of interest between humanitarian aid and armed conflict.
In the early 1990's Emma was an aid worker and idealist, working in the Sudan on programmes to provide young people with education (and assisting them in avoiding being drafted into the armies of the fighting factions of the region. Deborah Scroggins who met her once, unravels her life, and ties it in with the actions of the those around her - the warlords, the aid organisations, and the man she married, Northern Nile Warlord Riek.
This is a fascinating and well written book, almost Shakesperian in its tragedy. From tragic childhood to idealist aid worker to blindly in love, to prime manipulator and finally tragic heroine - It seemed her life and made a complete circle.
Scroggins clearly knows the area, its politics and history and is able to draw in immense amounts of background to situations which might otherwise be inexplicable - but she is an easy writer to read, it is eloquently put. I found myself unable to put this down until I was finished, and is easily one of the best reads of the year for me.
I found myself by turns exasperated and annoyed with Emma - she seemed frivolous with everyone but herself and yet, she obviously achieved such a lot before she became enamoured with Reik. Even perhaps afterwards.
I think reading this book will do more than explain the life of one woman, it will provide a background to one of those little understood regions - we are expected to give aid to the suffering masses without understanding why - and whether you actually give aid after you read this book will be interesting!
Deborah Scoggins uses the story of Emma McCune, a young Englishwoman who - obsessed with Sudan, its people, and its men, came to marry a Sudanese warlord, to shed light on the forsaken land, and of the people who populate it - not merely the Sudanese themselves, but also, perhaps especially, the Westerners who come to "save" them.
Scoggins sees continuity between the present day Aid workers, Journalists and other do-gooders and the Western Imperialists of the 19th century. Their implicit model was Charles George Gordon, the Victorian soldier and adventurer who led African soldiers in a "campaign" against slavery, and whose mix - of idealism, thrill seeking, and utter ignorance of the country and the people he came to save - they share (This is also a theme of William Easterly's The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good).
Like their Imperialists forerunners, the white aid-workers become immediate elite, separated and elevated above the population by the color of their skin. Also like the Imperialists, they get powers above and beyond anything they might have had back in the West. 25 years old Emma McCune, for example, became a school coordinator, essentially an education Minister for the area under the Sudanese Rebels' control.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Deborah Scroggins does some impressive reportage here on Sudan's civil war. Her research goes deep, and includes contemporary, documentary and historical sources. Read morePublished 10 months ago by J Petrille
I stumbled across this at the Nairobi airport after doing some relief work. The premise is quite disturbing - a relief worker marrying a warlord - and I figured it would be a good... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Michelle J.
I work in international development, and this book is basically a handbook of how not to behave while working abroad in an aid or NGO environment. Read morePublished on May 21, 2014 by Abigail
Extremely well written with a fully developed and accurate background of life in South Sudan. Tenants that still apply today in the struggling new nation.Published on March 15, 2014 by Baca 1997
I enjoyed Emma's War, mainly because I work in South Sudan and this book gave me some context. I wish Ms Scroggins could have discussed more about the minor tribes in the country,... Read morePublished on February 11, 2014 by Willard
Well written, giving the reader a very in-depth view of the tradjedy in the Sudan and how this young idealistic woman became involved.Published on October 4, 2013 by annemarie malcolm
I wanted to read about Emma, not her war. I guess I should have bought the book titled "Emma." My bad. When the book talked about Emma, I was engrossed. Otherwise, not so much.Published on September 3, 2013 by Free Spirit