Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir with Damien Lewis

Tears of the Desert is the memoir of Halima Bashir, a young woman who witnessed many atrocities in her homeland of Darfur and was courageous enough to speak out. Halima had an ordinary childhood as a member of the Zaghawa tribe. Life was carefree for the most part, doing chores and playing with other children in the village. Her father was the wealthiest man in the village (not rich by our standards, however), so Halima and her family enjoyed more comforts than the other village residents, including a Land Rover, a television, and a radio. Halima had a very close relationship with her father, who supported and furthered her desire for higher education, allowing her to postpone marriage to become the village's first doctor.

Life changed dramatically for Halima when the Arab-led Sudanese government waged war against the black Africans in Darfur. After speaking out about the horrors she witnessed caring for the war wounded in the hospital in Hashma, Halima was forced to serve as doctor in a remote village. It was in this village of Mazkhabad that the war really hit home. After treating 42 schoolgirls between the ages of 7 and 13 (in addition to a young teacher) who were raped and beaten by the Janjaweed, or devil horsemen (a militia helped by the Sudanese government), and speaking to United Nations workers about the brutality she'd witnessed, Halima was captured, raped, and tortured. But more atrocities awaited Halima in her home village.

There are graphic scenes of rape, torture, and other horrors of war in Tears of the Desert. Many times I had to close the book and take a deep breath to calm my anger and sadness. It was hard to read, but at least it was only reading for me. Could you imagine living such a life? Could you imagine what it must have been like to hide in the woods and hear your loved ones being beaten, shot, or thrown into the fire? Could you imagine being treated so horribly only because you are a black African and not an Arab?

Halima writes in such a way that she becomes your friend; you know her life story, her hopes, her dreams. Her words are laced with pain, but we readers can never understand what she went through. I closed the book angry that in this day and age, such atrocities are allowed to occur. Why isn't more being done?

I applaud Halima for bearing her soul to the world, for putting her life on the line to stand up for herself and her people. Tears of the Desert is a powerful book that brings the horrors of Darfur to life for those of us who complain about our lives but have everything we could possibly need and more. This is a book I will save for my daughter. She's much too young to read it now, but years down the road, I plan on sharing it with her so she can understand how good her life is and how important it is to help those without the same freedoms. Hopefully, by the time she is old enough to read this book, the people of Darfur will be living in peace.

Tears of the Desert was published by Ballentine/One World in early September.

Tears of the Desert also was reviewed by:

Maw Books (Natasha has included a passage of the book in her review that is extremely powerful and painful. It haunts me still.)
Bermudaonion
Shhh I'm Reading...
Leafing Through Life
Devourer of Books
The Printed Page


Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Tears of the Desert from the publisher for review purposes.

19 comments:

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful review! This book was so difficult to read but will go on my list of one of the best reads of the year. Everybody should read this one. Here is my review.

Anna said...

Natasha: I agree that it was hard to read, but I think everyone should because it's an important issue. I will add the link to your review! Thanks!

bermudaonion said...

Great review. You're right about the writing in this book - I was so attached to Halima by the end of the book. I'm going to add a link to your review on my post.

Anna said...

Thanks, Bermudaonion! I think the attachment to Halima is what makes this book so powerful, so effective. It was impossible for me to close the book and forget the situation in Darfur.

Melissa said...

Great reveiw! This book was hard to read at times it is so heartbreaking, but it is such an important topic.

Serena said...

Great review. I am not sure if I could handle this book. LOL I'll have to give it a try though.

Marie said...

Wow, sounds like quite a powerful read.

Dar said...

Great review Anna! It does sound very difficult to read but also a necessary one to read. I'll be putting it on my tbr list.

Anna said...

Melissa: Thanks for stopping by my blog! It was very hard to read, but I'm glad I did.

Serena: You can always borrow my copy if you want to give it a try.

Marie: Powerful is actually an understatement. I can't get this book out of my mind.

Dar: If you read it, let me know. I'd love to know your thoughts!

Ramya said...

that was an awesome review anna! i really want to read the book now!

tanabata said...

I immediately added this to my wishlist after I read Natasha's review, and now yours clinches it!

Anna said...

Ramya and Tanabata: Thanks for reading my review. I hope you both get a chance to read it!

Shana @ Literarily said...

Anna, thanks for the heartfelt review.

Sometimes the books that are the most difficult to read are the most powerful ones.

I really want to read this book. I'd like to own a copy to share with my own daughter in the next few years.

Anna said...

Shana: I agree. I think this is a very important book. If you get a chance to read it, please let me know!

Marcia said...

Thank you for mentioning my blog in your post. This book was selected for me to read by someone else. Halima's story is very important and we should all take the time to reflect and reach out, even in some small way, to those in need.

Anna said...

Marcia: You're very welcome! And I agree with you completely. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Megan said...

Great review! This book is definitely among the best I've read this year.

And thanks for linking me - I just linked you back. =)

Trish said...

I've seen this one around lately and it sounds really good. It's hard for me to read a lot of these types of books at one time without feeling overwhelmed (I guess that's the point...maybe?). I'll have to eventually pick it up, though. Thanks for the great review!

Anna said...

Megan: Thanks so much!

Trish: Thanks! It was a difficult book to read, but it was worth it.