Heart of Darfur- Book Review


book reviewEver since my birth, the sufferings and the plight of African people have been ‘music’ to my ears. Whenever I switch on TVs, all that jumps to the screen is bad news and a sort of desolation going on in one part or another in Africa. True it is that wars, poverty and dictatorship are familiar to every child born and raised in Africa.

The times when atrocities from Africa flash from the TV screens, the easiest one could do is to reach for remote control and move to another channel. Because simply we can’t hear our cryings, watch our wretchedness and see the corpses lying all over the place.

But here in this world, there are people who are different from you and me. There are people who do not get hurt by the images on the screen, but have got strong and compassionate heart to go a mile further and face the reality. And people of this nature are always rare. One of such people is a New Zealand nurse, Lisa F Blacker, who takes us behind the headlines and into the frontline of most war-ravaged places in Africa- Darfur. Darfur is a place where I personally learned a lot through my Darfurian classmates.  Their stories are so tear-jerking!

Now the book that I’m holding onto my hand is Heart of Darfur. This book is a chronicle memoir by this fervent New Zealand nurse who had been working with MSF in Darfur for six months. ‘Heart of Darfur’ is one of the top ten books ever written about Africa.

In Heart of Darfur, Lisa answers a simple question and yet thought-provoking one. ‘What’s like in Darfur?’ ‘Is it bad as they?’ Here Lisa honestly portrays the actual image and explains in crystal clear prose what is like to try to help suffering people while a war is going on around them.

Sudan lies the northern border of Uganda where I’m now pursuing my studies. And Darfur is just a semi-arid province in the far west of Sudan in which its climate very much similar with that of Horn of Africa. It is in the size of France. Life there like any other part of Africa is colored by tribal conflict. Whichever side they live on, in government or rebel areas, people see the effect of war every day. But the lines are never so clear in Sudan; there are Arabs and Africans on both sides of the conflict and all are Muslim. All are hurting, some more than others though. And it shows no sign of losing momentum. It only worsens as the days pass.

Lisa takes us a journey to Darfur- to share us with the certainty of her work as a nurse in a land of conflict and loss, beauty and hope. She introduces us to some of the people of the land, their children and their dreams. So that at the end, the true picture of Darfur comes right in front of us- the worst and the best.  But through it all, your heart may ache and despair and your tears may sting for a moment.

What stunned me much about this breathtaking book is that the author has successfully managed to actually make her book about Darfur. The reader gets to know a little about Lisa, a South African born New Zealand nurse with a love of Africa. The things you won’t forget are patients she treats along the way. This book is the first to go behind the headlines and discover the reality underground in the middle of the humanitarian disaster that is in Darfur.

The book is an interesting read. Heart of Darfur is a delightful memoir, a life history filled with the pain and heartache, the joy and triumph that marks the life of the ordinary person in Darfur.  Lisa’s way of writing is also quick based and easily read. Her use of voice is relatively low key, as though recalling memories one after other as they pertain to the topic, easing from one to the next is a comfortable rhythm.

Lastly, this unblemished story is a great book that shows how one caring person can make a difference. This is a great memoir worth reading by everyone especially historical and political science fans that need to find out the nature of African conflict. I hope many Somalis out there will find it very helpful as they will learn good lessons of what is going on in Darfur.

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