Sunday, August 1, 2010

Book Review -- A Thousand Sisters

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a WomanA Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman by Lisa Shannon

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Lisa Shannon actually does more than the feigned attempt most of us give to a crisis, “oh, how I wish we could help!” is often the refrain. After watching an episode devoted to the crisis in the Congo on Oprah (leave it to Oprah!), Lisa is determined to make a difference in the lives of women who have been tortured, beaten, raped, mutilated, by the hands of invaders as well and their own countrymen. She runs marathons, she raises money, and she travels to the Congo in hopes that she alone can make a life better. And for the most part she does - -she brings gifts, she brings light, and I think she brings hope. She doesn’t bring peace or the end to their suffering – but nothing buy a higher power could possibly attain that result.

A Thousand Sisters is an emotional, upsetting, and grueling personal account of Lisa’s attempt to make change. She spends 5 weeks in the Congo befriending and listening to the horror stories of women, who have survived. Her storytelling is wrought with pain and suffering. But whether or not she accomplishes anything is of little consequence, because at least, ladies, she tried.

I thought this was an amazing story. However, I wasn’t sure if this story was for Lisa or if this story was for the women of Congo. I suppose any memoir, by nature, is self centered, so I can’t necessarily fault the author on that basis. But many times her narrative sure seemed to slide toward the, “Wow – look at what I am doing to save the World!” attitude, which was distasteful. Also, I will never get used to what author Bernice McFadden calls writing from “white privilege” this notion of white people writing as advocates for blackness. Even though she is referring to fiction, I had this overriding feeling of “white-man going in to save the savages” with this book. I’m sure that wasn’t the author’s intent and it was my own hang up, but it tripped me up on occasion. Also, there was a typo – my biggest pet peeve ever – she used STATIONARY when referring to writing paper instead of STATIONERY. Ugh! I wish I could remember the page, but trust me, it’s there.

This was absolutely a worthy account to bring focus on the tragedy of the Congo – but for a book, Left to Tell is infinitely better in telling a survivor’s story from the point of view of the survivor (and directly related to the Congo, by telling the story of the Rwandan genocide).

Here is a brief video about Lisa Shannon and her Run for Congo Women project:

Although not one of my original selections, A Thousand Sisters qualifies for my Women Unbound Challenge.

Book source: public library

1 comment:

Samantha said...

Thanks for the great post! I'm like you in that I'm torn between rooting for women to make a mark on the world in positive ways and being too "Look at me, aren't I awesome!" I got the same feeling from Eat, Pray, Love (although that was just to help herself) and The Blind Side.

I guess at the end, if women are really positively impacting others with long-term results, who am I to judge? It's hard for me to think of an example where someone reveals the good work they do in hopes that others will follow but doesn't come across as a braggart.