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Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur Hardcover – September 9, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: One World/Ballantine; 1 edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345506251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345506252
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Severance VINE VOICE on September 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Tears in the Desert is a memoir of genocide in the Sudan, Muslim against Muslim over skin color. Halima Bashir is a black African raised in the Zaghawa tribe in a family of comparative wealth. The Zaghawa men are proud of their history as fierce warriors who protect their village territory and their families from invaders. Halima is proud of her heritage and her intellectual gifts, particularly mathematics. Her gifts and her family's wealth allow her to attend a private school for girls and later university in Khartoum.

The history of tribal pride has led to competition in Darfur and throughout the Sudan for land and prestige. But there is more than tribal rivalry. The Khartoum government is run by white "Arab" Muslims whose proud heritage causes the people to despise the black tribal Africans. Although Halima's advantages paid off in education, her M.D. degree is fully useful to her only if all Sudanese are treated equally. Of course, in the Sudan they are not.

After being mistreated for many years, African tribes attacked Arabs and regrouped in the hills. Government attacks on villages were carried out leaving few surviving men and a great many women and children. For the survivors like Halima, brutal female circumcision, rape, and mayhem were perpetuated by the Arab Muslims in the rationalization of jihad. Halima survived, but barely. Many others died or left their villages to stay in large refugee centers.

The memoir is written like a novel with the help of Damien Lewis, a BBC reporter and writer who has covered conflicts in Africa for many years.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Halima Bashir's autobiography is a testament to the tragedy taking place in Darfur as well as a picture of her life. She begins with her happy childhood in her village - although the chapter of her "cutting time", when she underwent the gruesome ritual of Female Genital Mutiliaton, is wrenching, and progresses to her work as a medical doctor.

Targeted just for speaking out against the violence, and for serving her people, Dr. Bashir is kidnapped and viciously tortured and raped, then released as the ultimate punishment since rape victims are shunned in her society. She could have suffered in silence, as so many women of her culture do, or at least kept her torment private to heal. No one would have blamed her. Instead she bravely speaks out about her ordeal in an attempt to both help her violated country, and to help other victims of sexual assault.

I'm delighted that she has found joy in her marriage and child, and has been granted asylum in England, but as of publication, the fate of her other family members is unknown. I will not close my eyes at night without a prayer for her relatives and the people of Darfur, which also raises the question: WHERE IS THE WORLD??? Why is my USA, as well as the other countries who cried "never again!" after the Holocaust of the last century, so strangely silent? Dr. Bashir chose to become a voice for her oppressed people. The remainder of humanity has a moral obligation to join theirs to hers.
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By P. Edie on September 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I welcome a wake-up call. It is so easy to unconsciously become cocooned in my protected life on the West Coast of the United States, where daily issues end up being hunting for the best price for gasoline for my car, battling the crowded freeways and looking for a parking place, discussing the what to fix for dinner that night. I try to stay abreast of the global situation by watching the nightly News Hour on our local PBS station, but it is easy to glaze over or become anesthetized by the onslaught of words from talking heads, figures and maps so that the news takes on a element of the unreal. So when something happens to hit my radar in a way that makes me say, "I didn't know that!" or that says to me, "Open your eyes!" I am grateful and I feel a little more connected to reality.

The book, "Tears of the Desert" was slipped inside my screendoor, an advance review copy I was sent to read. I looked at the cover, the title word "Desert", the subtitle word "Darfur" and thought to myself, "I am going to read something I know very little about." I had heard of the cries of genocide in the Sudan, seen pictures of streams of refugees, and read of the outcry of protestors during the summer Olympics in China, but I didn't understand the conflict and it felt very impersonal to me.

However, when I began to read the book I entered a new world and culture, the life of Halima Bashir in a Zaghawa tribal village in South Darfur. The first part of the book described the tribal life, the traditions and practices as seen through the eyes of a child. Her descriptions of her family members brought the characters to life and her portrayals were so personal that when events involved them later in the book, I felt a personal sorrow and outrage.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Bashir writes an incredible story of joy, pain, suffering, accomplishment, respect and above all, love for her fellow man. This book truly makes for a smaller world. Suddenly you are inside the heart of a small girl that grew up in the African bush and suffered severely simply because of where she happened to be born. I cried often as I read this book. The characters are, on the face of it, as different from me as I could possibly imagine..African, poor, Muslim, etc. In reality, they are no different. These are men, women, and children just like you and me. This is a heartbreaking story that I highly recommend.
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