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Escape from Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America Paperback – September 9, 2004
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
But as he also notes, while there may be some kind Muslims, the ongoing genocide against 2 million Southern Sudanese Dinka is merely a modern manifestation of Islamic tradition in Sudan and elsewhere throughout North Africa.
Francis Bok recognized in his treatment an institutionalized cruelty. He was beaten, forced to tend and sleep with animals, fed rotting meat, and cursed as a jedut --- maggot --- even after his master pressed a Muslim name and prayers on him. Abdul Rahman ironically means "servant of the compassionate one." But there was not one second of compassion during Bok's 10 years of captivity, although he was one of the lucky ones.
He many times tried to escape, and failed. His penalties were mere beatings. Other Dinka escapees routinely lost their limbs when recaptured. Giemma Abdullah threatened the same; Bok didn't believe him, until he saw other Dinkas, limbless. Finally, at 17, Francis Bok took the cows one morning, and from the road near their grazing area ran all the way to Mutari. After further privations and imprisonments, Bok finally hid in a truck en route to ed-Da'ein, fled to Khartoum, to Cairo, and as a refugee, in 1999, to the U.S. He landed in the U.S. poor, illiterate, and 20.
But Bok admits that he was like all its victims unaware of the jihad institution's name or history. During 10 long years of enslavement by Giemma Abdullah in Kerio, Bok learned that the Arabic word abeed carried three meanings --- "slave," "black" and "filth." Half his lifetime among Muslims taught him that they considered themselves better than Southern Sudanese infidels. But this hardly educated him on the institution to which his 20th century captors and masters subjected him.
The privations Bok suffered and the constant jihad in Sudan are typical of those suffered by non-Muslims, as pre-eminent Islamic scholar Bat Ye'or notes in The Decline of Eastern Christianity. Rudolf C. Slatin's Fire and Sword in the Sudan: A Personal Narrative of Fighting and Serving the Dervishes, 1879-1895, recounts 10 years of captivity by Khalifa Abdullah, searching for slaves and booty in Christian and animist regions. One finds similar accounts by Greek historian Speros Vryonis Jr. and in Nobel laureate Ivo Andric's 1924 Ph.D. thesis, The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia under the Influence of Turkish Rule and in October 20, 2003 issue of the Vatican-vetted La Civiltà Cattolica.
Francis Bok's book recounts his journey to freedom, education and the fulfillment of his father's dreams. This account resounds with the voice of twelve men, speaking as it does for the enslaved Dinka masses, still suffering razzias in Southern Sudan --- and for non-Muslim dhimmis across time.
--Alyssa A. Lappen
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.
PLEASE BUY IT RIGHT NOW! IT'S WORTH EVERY PENNY!
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. Kola Boof's books for the North African Book Exchange, however, were forced out of print when Muslim forces in Morrocco firebombed the author's publisher Russom Damba in Rabat. This includes her classic "Long Train to the Redeeming Sin", which is no longer in print. Miss Boof became a citizen of the United States in 1993.
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.