Monday, March 3, 2014

Amazing Stories of Survival - Women

These stories are emotionally taxing. The stories of these women and the situations that they have all survived is astounding. We get all wrapped up in our everyday lives and forget that these things happen every day.

There will be a post for amazing stories of men as well. I am not trying to say anything by splitting by them by gender (they are all equally worthy of being read). I just happened to look on my Goodreads shelf and saw that these stories would make a good post together.

Attention must be paid.

"The Bite of Mango" by Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland.

Mariatu is a 12(ish) year old girl living in rural Sierra Leone. She has a pretty happy childhood surrounded by extended family in her small village. However there are rumors going around that there is a band of rebels making their way through the countryside. No one in the area has actually seen them so no one is sure what to believe. One day shortly after these rumors have started she, and a group of other village members, are sent to a nearby town for food. They immediately are accosted by the rebels who have taken over this village. Many of these rebels are no older then Mariatu herself.

Hours pass. Men, women and children are all shot, burned alive or tortured. Mariatu continually prays for a stray bullet to pierce her heart and kill her quickly so she isn't tortured. Finally, Mariatu is told she is free to leave...but first both of her hands will be chopped off. This is a favorite punishment of the rebels because this way "they won't vote for the president". As blood spurts from the place her hands used to be Mariatu thinks to herself "what is a president?" before she falls into unconsciousness.

Mariatu's troubles are far from over, even when she realizes she has survived this terrible assault. She will endure a pregnancy that resulted from a rape (a man from her village, not one of the rebels), a long stay in a refugee camp,and having to beg for survival. She ends up coming to Toronto Canada where she finds a supportive community of Sierra Leoenian (?) expats who try to help her adjust to her new life.

It's a short read at less than 250 pages and it is will worth the time for a new perspective. Sometimes she came off as a little ungrateful and argumentative but when you take into consideration that she had so much trauma before she was even a teenager I think it's understandable.

"Slave, My True Story" by Mende Nazer

Mende had a pretty idyllic childhood in rural Sudan. She was much loved by her parents, especially since she was the baby of the family. She tells stories about their village and the strong sense of community they had.

One thing that she describes in horrifying detail is her female circumcision (also is refered to as genital mutilation). This was (and still is in some places) a very common practice that is supposed to deter girls from sexual activity. The circumcision  itself is incredibly painful and the risk of dying from infection and from childbirth is incredibly high.

One night when Mende is about 9 years old Arab raiders come to their village in the middle of the night and kidnap many of the villages children. Almost all of the girls who are captured (none older than Mende) are sexually assaulted or raped. This already horrible and painful experience is made worse by their mutilations.

Mende is sold to a wealthy Arab family in the large city of Khartoum. She is a slave for this family for 6 years enduring constant abuse. She takes care of the family's children, cleans the house and does all of the other domestic duties working constantly and sleeping in a shed outside. Once she is beaten so badly she has to stay in the hospital for 3 days (the only time she received medical attention).

Eventually she is sold to her mistresses sister who lives in London. Life seems to be better for awhile. She actually gets to sleep in a room in the house that has an actual bed. However it doesn't take long for her current owners to become abusive, though not as bad as before.

She coincidentally runs into a Sudanese man on the street who helps her formulate a plan to escape...

It's not a long read (about 250 pages) but packs a powerful emotional punch. You can really feel her fear and despair. The part that scared me the most was her story about mutilation. It's horrifying that this still so prevalent and so fatal to so many prepubescent girls.

I'd love to tell you that these stories were both from the 50s and since then we've begun to treat our fellow (wo)man wit some respect and dignity that is due everyone. But I can't.These stories each happened within the last 13-ish years. Both of these women who are highlighted have gotten an amazing second chance, there are so many that were not that lucky.

I honestly don't think I'd read either of these books again, just because they are hard stories to stomach. Because of that my rating system doesn't really work, but I will say that these books are both worth your time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!