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A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman [Kindle Edition]

Lisa Shannon , Zainab Salbi
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Lisa J. Shannon had a good life—a successful business, a fiancé, a home, and security. Then, one day in 2005, an episode of Oprah changed all that. The show focused on women in Congo, the worst place on earth to be a woman. She was awakened to the atrocities there—millions dead, women raped and tortured daily, and children dying in shocking numbers. Shannon felt called to do something. And she did. A Thousand Sisters is her inspiring memoir. She raised money to sponsor Congolese women, beginning with one solo 30-mile run, and then founded a national organization, Run for Congo Women. The book chronicles her journey to the Congo to meet the women her run sponsored, and shares their incredible stories. What begins as grassroots activism forces Shannon to confront herself and her life, and learn lessons of survival, fear, gratitude, and immense love from the women of Africa.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The subject of a recent New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof, Shannon details how she left her comfortable life in Portland, Ore., to aid women in the Democratic Republic of Congo suffering abuse and death in what has been termed Africa's First World War. Running a successful business with her fiancée (who would leave her), Shannon is still hungry for something all [her] own and after seeing a show on Oprah about Congolese women, she establishes the Run for Congo Women to raise money to help those suffering. From meeting Congolese women she's sponsored to learning that 90% of the women in one village have been raped, Shannon is exposed to a world remote from her own affluent life. Her painful firsthand accounts of the violence inflicted upon Congolese women by Hutu militants will most interest readers, but the book lacks a detailed overview of the political circumstances surrounding this long war. Shannon provides a much-needed view of how one inspired American can act with hope, drive, and courage to aid women in a part of the world too often overlooked. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“I can't imagine a more perfect book for arousing the power of American women (or women and men everywhere) to rush to the defense of our Congolese sisters. Lisa Shannon, runner extraordinaire, has with this forthright and readable book, crossed the finish line into the way of life the remainder of our time on this planet demands: she has entered the land of courage, compassion, and a fierce determination to stand by those who need us, where everyone understands they must be—our lives depend on it—a citizen of the world.
—Alice Walker

“While reporting for the Oprah Show , I called the Democratic Republic of the Congo the ‘worst place on earth.’ When Lisa Shannon saw my report, rather than turn her back, she took it on. Her commitment to the victims of one of the world's greatest tragedies exemplifies the best in humanity. Her powerful story is an inspiration to all of those who think their voice is too small to change lives.”
—Lisa Ling, journalist

"Congo is usually portrayed as hopeless and its women as victims. Lisa Shannon shines a spotlight on the hope that emanates so stubbornly from this complex country, primarily through her loving portrayal of her Congolese sisters. Instead of victims, these women are determined survivors, three-dimensional human beings who deserve our respect and solidarity."
—John Prendergast, co-founder of The Enough Project, and co-author of Not On Our Watch with Don Cheadle

“As global consumers we all share some responsibility for the tragedy in the Congo. Lisa Shannon's riveting, personal narrative lays bare the human cost of that relationship, through a personal journey like no other into the heart of the Congo.”
—Robin Wright, actress and activist

“I wish that every woman and man in America were as stirred to outrage and action as Lisa Shannon by what is happening in today’s Congo. In ...

Product Details

  • File Size: 2278 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1580052967
  • Publisher: Seal Press; First Trade Paper Edition edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0038ZR0L6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,074 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
122 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint of heart March 5, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Before reviewing this book let me say that this book is not for people with weak stomachs. The atrocities the woman of the Congo face are described in graphic detail. Things like rape, torture, murder, and arson are common place. This book is based on the true stories of real women. It is not fiction. The horrors described in this book are all too real.

This is definitely not a book you read for pleasure. Honestly, there were times when I wondered if I would be able to make it through the entire book. But I toughed it out and am very glad I did. The Congolese women are amazing. They have such resilience and courage. As an American woman, I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to live as these women do. Congo truly is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. Danger and death are every day occurrences. The author doesn't just throw her money at the problem and keep a distance. She goes right in there and witnesses the atrocities first hand. She gets a much deeper understanding of what Congolese women live with every day. You can tell that she truly wants to make a difference in the lives of these women. Her interactions with them are inspiring. But Lisa also wrestles with intense feelings of helplessness, frustration, and even anger at times. She is very generous with both her time and money, but sometimes, the women seem ungrateful and try to take advantage of her. In one situation, Lisa offers to help a woman pay for food and medical care. Her children are clearly starving and her son needs medical attention. But the woman also asks Lisa for money to buy sugar for her tea. She asks Lisa for this several times. Finally Lisa answers "You can go without sugar in your tea." There are several other instances like this in the book as well.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, gut-wrenching, and thoroughly inspiring. February 13, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Lisa Shannon tells her story from start to finish in chronological order -- how she first heard about Congo's plight, how she figured out what to do about it, how she trained for her first run, her eventual "adventures" in Congo -- and she weaves other nuggets of information into the narrative seamlessly, keeping it non-stop interesting.

For example, as she flies to Rwanda, she tells some essential Rwandan history. It fits perfectly at that place in the story, making it effortless to read. A real pleasure to read.

The writing is good, very free-flowing. The story moves along at a good pace.

Shannon is an inspiration. She has no experience in any of this, but she does it anyway because it needs to be done. When she started out, she knew nothing about starting a movement, fundraising, long-distance running, lobbying senators, or doing interviews. But she has a goal, a worthy purpose, and moves toward her goal, learning as she goes.

"It's raining? I run anyway," she writes. "I'm in pain? I run anyway. I'm tired? I run anyway. I'm busy? I run anyway." And then she gives an insight into how she stays motivated -- an insight we can apply to our own worthy purposes. "When it all seems too much, I try to picture the women living in eastern Congo. Their faces are always a blank, but I try to imagine what they are doing right now. They can't pick up a cell phone and call a cab to take them out of the war zone. So I keep going."

She didn't try to learn it all first. She just got out there and started making something happen, doing what she could where she was with what she had.

It seems to me the only thing that really means anything is making a difference to other people. With her hard work and courage, Shannon makes a difference. This book will inspire others to follow that path.

So I hope A Thousand Sisters becomes a runaway bestseller. The more hearts it reaches, the better.
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63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars what the author has done is amazing. the book is not. August 28, 2010
By julie
I was really excited to read this book having lived in east africa for a few years and having close friends who have spent thier lives there. I found it very very hard to finish. What the author did is wonderful. To raise so much money for the Congolese women is completely selfless. But the book itself seemed almost self serving. I felt like not much was told about the women, it was more about her. I was also VERY put off by how she seemed to say something negative about every other person who was trying to help. She seemed to come across as if she was the only person with the right attitude. It just wasn't for me.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-absorbed, whiney, ignorant, cruel... July 6, 2011
By Zip
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was expecting a book about the women of the Congo. Instead, I got a book about a white, middle class, American woman with no understanding of her own privilege, and no compassion for the plight of others. Here's some specific reasons why you absolutely should not waste your time reading this book:

(1) When I finished the book, I knew more about the author's failed relationship and taste in men than about the Congo. This was rectified by a 30 minute Google search (seriously, 30 minutes on the internet and you will know more about the plight of Congolese women than after finishing the entire book, hands down).

(2) The author has no cultural sensitivity or understanding of how to deal with her Congolese "sisters," so I spent most of the book thinking "she didn't - oh no, she wouldn't - not even she could be so stupid - no, no no..." When she asked a room full of traumatized women who didn't know her or each other, in front of a camera, to raise their hands if they'd been raped, that was bad. But then when she endangered her entire entourage by missing a boat because she wanted a woman (who was clearly traumatized and didn't want to) to list the names of her ten dead children for the camera, that was worse. Then, when she spent a day trying to track down three children who'd been raped by the army so they could talk about it in front of the camera, that was pretty bad, and trying to send away "the men"," including their father and brother but not her male translator, made it worse. The list of thoughtlessly cruel incidents is endless.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Painful read and subject but worth learning about.
Published 1 month ago by RedFingerNails
4.0 out of 5 stars compelling
This is a book you cannot put down ,but it is difficult to believe that what you are reading is happening to real people. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Liz Spaulding
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-centered woman without a clue....
I've lived and worked abroad for 10 years. This woman has no idea how to act in another culture or deal with people. Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Sassymom
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by Diane Stelly
5.0 out of 5 stars This book does an awesome job of team showing us what one person can...
This book does an awesome job of team showing us what one person can do to make a real difference. I recommend it to anyone that cares for others.
Published 6 months ago by Nancy Joan Fletcher
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hard but Important Read
I wrote a research paper on sexual violence in the DRC and checked this book out from the library along the way. I was so engaged by it that I purchased for myself. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Vix
1.0 out of 5 stars Humanitarian trip? Nope, ego trip
I wanted to read this book hoping to learn more about Congo and current relief efforts. Instead, the book is filled with self-congratulating commentary and anecdotes that verge on... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Harry Franklin
3.0 out of 5 stars A Thousand Sisters: Boring
I got so bored with this book. It didn't seem to really go anywhere. But I DID manage to finish it..................
Published 11 months ago by bebethreads
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, but outstanding.
As many people as possible should read this book in order to be aware of the atrocities in the Congo.
Published 12 months ago by Debra G. Morehead
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More About the Author

Lisa Shannon founded the first national grassroots effort to raise awareness and funds for women in the DR Congo through her project Run for Congo Women. They have sponsored more than a thousand war-affected Congolese women through Women for Women International. These women are raising more than 5000 children. She traveled solo into Eastern Congo's South Kivu province for five and half weeks in January- February 2007, and again in May 2008. Prior to Lisa's travels through Congo, was named a "2006 Hero of Running" by Runner's World Magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine wrote, "Lisa Shannon read our report--and started a movement." Lisa presently serves as an ambassador for Women for Women International. She previously owned a photography production company, where she served as art director and producer. She lives in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. A Thousand Sisters is her first book.

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