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Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America Hardcover – October 14, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Seven-year-old Francis Piol Bol Buk was living happily on his family's southern Sudan farm. One day in 1986, he was sent on errands to the marketplace. There, a slave raid ripped him from his contented life and threw him into a wretched existence serving under a northern Sudanese Arab. After he escaped at age 17, Buk made his way to Cairo with a black market passport incorrectly listing his name as Bok and became a U.N. refugee allowed to settle in the U.S. in 1999. Although he found contentment in Iowa among other refugees, the following year Bok decided to work with an American antislavery organization, and testified before Congress about the atrocities in Sudan. While this is a remarkable story, its power is conveyed most effectively through Bok's simple retelling. His sincerity compels, especially when he describes the decade of mistreatment he endured. After two failed escape attempts, he's told he'll be killed in the morning, and while bound, he thinks of the morning ahead: "I would be dead and finally through with this place and this family. My mind preferred death." Yet when his master changes his mind, Bok immediately starts plotting again. For all his emotional strength, though, Bok remains humble. He thanks God and everyone who helps him escape slavery. This is a powerful, exceptionally well-told story, equally riveting and heartbreaking. Although legal strides have been made, with the help of people like Bok, the persistence of slavery in the world makes this a work that can't be ignored. Maps, photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

As a seven-year-old boy growing up in the southern Sudan, Bok was caught up in a raid on a regional market center when marauders from the north set upon the market, killing the men and kidnapping the women and children to work as farm slaves. He went from a loving and supportive extended family to the brutality of slavery in a strange land and culture, dominated by Muslims who considered him a Christian infidel. After enduring 10 years of slavery, Bok escaped to freedom in Cairo, where he became a U.N. refugee, eventually making his way to the U.S. at the age of 21. Having learned Arabic in Northern Sudan and English in America, Bok, with incredible determination, became involved in the antislavery movement, speaking around the country while seeking to earn a high-school degree. Yet it is his simple account of being a child cut off from his family and culture that shows the inhumanity of slavery. Bok's saga provides another--more contemporary--perspective on slavery for Americans reckoning with their own troubling history of such inhumanity. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312306237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312306236
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alyssa A. Lappen VINE VOICE on October 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The cruelty that Francis Bok experienced at age seven--and which he recounts here--defies civilized human conception. One day in 1986, his mother Marial sent him to Nyamlell's market from their Southern Sudan Dinka village of Gourion to sell eggs and peanuts. His father Pial Bol Buk had recently called Francis "Muycharko" --- "like twelve men." He would be successful and achieve something important.

Eventually, as this book bears out, his father's hope proved prophetic. But in 1986 Francis could count to no more than ten and still played alweth and Madallah --- Dinka hide-and-seek and cricket. His mother sent older friends to supervise his first independent market trip.

The Catholic boy nicknamed Piol, for rain, that day lost his childhood and world to the murahaliin. After torching the nearby villages and slaying their inhabitants, 20 light-skinned Juur horsemen charged into Nyamlell. They severed the heads of all Dinka men with single sword strokes, left them rolling in the blood-soaked market dust and stole Piol's older friends Abuk, Kwol and Nyabol. A rifleman permanently silenced a crying girl with a bullet to her head. A swordsman sliced off her sister's leg at the thigh. Francis tried to flee. Terror squelched his cries. He was halted at gunpoint, grabbed and slung astride a small saddle, crafted specifically (as he later recognized) to carry abducted children, and ridden far north.

Bok recounts the role he played in pushing President Bush to toughen and sign the Sudan Peace Act on October 18, 2002. As he points out, this made Americans increasingly aware of Sudanese Islamic government support for mass enslavement and genocide of Southern Sudanese Christians and animists.
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Format: Hardcover
The following review is submitted by Sudan's top woman writer, author Kola Boof.
Once again, Francis Bok, a brave handsome heroic warrior man from the very gracious and proud Dinka Tribe has come forward with humility and elegance...to tell his truth. Not only does he tell HIS truth--but he also tells the truth of all of us who are both black and Sudanese. This is a remarkable book, one that should be important to ALL humanity, because in the larger sense, it is not just about being black or being Dinka in Sudan, it is not just about slavery...it is about human beings failing to honor and cherish the lives...of other human beings. This is one of the best books of the year!!!
As an Arab/Oromo woman born in Omdurman--and as a Northerner--I would like to testify and back up Mr. Bok's truth, because I personally witnessed much of what he writes about in his book.of course.I witnessed entirely different events at an entirely different time, because being the daughter of an Arab Egyptian, I was able to see the slave movement from its "infancy"--before it became visible and I was also an 8 year old child playing in the home of Dr. John Garang as my father, Garang (a Dinka) and other Arabs discussed at great length...what would years later become the SPLA.
About Kola Boof:
Sudanese-American author Kola Boof...currently appears in the just released all new short story collection "Politically Inspired--Edited by Stephen Elliott" (MacAdam/Cage). All proceeds of the book "Politically Inspired" go to the Oxfam Humanitarian fund to help buy food and medicine for children in Iraq. In February 2004, Kola Boof's 1995 Arabic novel "Flesh and the Devil" will be released in ENGLISH in the U.S. translated by Said Musa.
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By A Customer on September 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is the autobiography of a young man who has seen more in 21 years than most experience in a lifetime. Bok was taken into slavery at age 7, after a jihadist raid on his village in the Sudan that left his entire family dead. (With one exception, as he movingly reveals late in the book.) After ten years in captivity and living in an animal shed, he escaped and eventually came to the US. This book should be read by everyone, including younger readers, because it's a first-person account of something that most of us think was abolished in the 19th century, but in fact continues to this day. The author does public speaking and I hope our church will invite him to talk to our congregation. An amazing, moving story of imprisonment and triumph.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an absolutely moving description of modern slavery. It could have easily been written to include grisly details of specific tortures that Bok and others suffered. But, this story's purpose is not to be shocking or voyeuristic. Instead, it is meant to inform the world about what most of us think ended hundreds of years ago. Sensationalism is not necessary. The indignities inherent in slavery, the sorrows of stolen lives, and the struggle for freedom are heartrending in themselves. And, there is always the understanding that as horrendous as his life of slavery was, millions of others continue to live even harsher lives enslaved.

It is a shame that the situation is not well-known. Obviously, people should work as vehemently against slavery today as they ever did before. Though the book ultimately urges activism, simply being knowledgeable of this issue is undoubtedly a tremendous step forward.
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