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A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman Hardcover – March 16, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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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 her heartfelt and very personal way, she shines some light on a place of great suffering that the world has too long ignored.”
—Adam Hochschild, author, iKing Leopold’s Ghost and iBury the Chains

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press; First Edition edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580052967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580052962
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,265,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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