From Publishers 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. (Sept.)
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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