FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Friday, June 12, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "By Night the Mountains Burn" to (Equatorial Guinea)

Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa (following 200 years of Spanish rule)--it's also the richest African country you've never heard of per capita (due to the discovery of oil there in the 90's).  The level of wealth, however, has been rather opaque due to the brutal dictatorship of "President" Obiang who took power by staging a bloody coup against his own Uncle in the late 70's.  Exxon has run most of the country's oil production so despite flagrant human right's abuses, the country has had an on-again-off-again relationship with the U.S..

"By Night the Mountain Burns", however, takes place back during the colonial era on one of the country's neglected islands--the country itself is run from its capital city Malabo on its largest island called Bioko.

It's important to consider the subject matter and themes authors like Laurel choose to address.  A frequent critic of Obiango, the self-exiled author tells a tale in this novel of a marginalized community that survives (sometimes) on the narrowest of margins depending on passing European ships and a strange periodic washing ashore of squids. Life on the island revolves around the ocean and the canoes which the entire community bands together to create and which men are buried in when they dide.  Superstition also plays a central role as the villagers brutally murder one woman for her suspected role in a fire, and later cholera decimates the population.

To my knowledge this is still the only work of fiction available in English from Equatorial Guinea.  The author has since then written about migration in northern Africa (The Gurugu Pledge) and I look forward to more contemporary novels in the future from this small nation.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key Quotes:

  • And besides, he wasn’t trained to believe in things that weren’t written in books.  Location: 1,107
  • If witnessing the hounding of that woman was the singular thing that made the biggest impression on me, the cholera was what caused me the most tears. Because it took so many of our people … If it had taken one hundred people it would have made a huge dent in the island’s population. But it took a lot more than that. A lot more than one hundred girls and boys, men and women,  Location: 1,147
  • Seeing is a form of taking part, and nobody can claim they didn’t see it.  Location: 1506
  • What’s more, the child was white and I don’t think white people are born to lead such hard lives. Location: 2613
  • Everybody knew deads weighed more than alives. Some people think what weighs is the sadness, the pain, the immense darkness of their closed eyes. In death, you have to cross a strange, dark wall. You stop being. You’re destined for the blackness, and you let yourself be taken there. You sleep more deeply than a normal person. And all of this weighs. Other people say no one knows what weighs or why death weighs. It just does. Any man transporting a dead should therefore be forewarned, even if, as in this case, the dead person is a small child. Such journeys are special and the canoeman should be mentally prepared, even though he won’t do anything special himself. But on this occasion, the canoeman was not informed.  Location: 2642

Key references:
New Writing from Equatorial Guinea:
"Government Property" short story by Trifonia Obono
"Obi's Nightmare" by Jamon Y Queso
Interview with author Juan Tomas Avila LaurelThe Filthy Rich Spanish-Speaking Country
HRW: the 40th Anniversary That Shouldn't Be: Obiang

Friday, April 17, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "She Would Be King" to Experience Liberia's Birth (Liberia)

In Philip Hitti's History of the Arabs, he highlights the long-standing Arab appreciation for oral story-telling and poetry which they call sihr halal.  He further describes this ingrained love for "the rhythm, the rhyme, the music, [which] produce on them the effect of what they call "lawful magic" (sihr halal). "  In her debut novel Wayetu Moore channels this idea of lawful magic as she joins magical realist authors like Couto, Martel, and Marquez in her telling of an alternative origin story of the Pepper Coast lands that would become Liberia.

In her novel, Moore has decided to focus not on Liberia's historical realities and details but rather on highlighting the people and ideas that would become Liberia.  This shift allows the reader to more thoughtfully ponder the roles of justice, religion, and slavery against the backdrop of the most unique colonialist setting on the continent.

Envisioned as an alternative to the emancipation of black slaves in the United States, the west coast African colony began through the efforts of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1822.  Twenty-five years later it would become an independent nation--Liberia.  The entire venture was embroiled in controversy as many freed blacks in the United States viewed this as an affront to their efforts and rights to exist in America.  That many members of the ACS were prominent white politicians further served to support this viewpoint.

Like all colonization, Liberia's was rife with bloodshed, betrayal, theft, and violence.  The initial land purchase was only successful when the US Navy Lieutenant leading the expedition "encouraged" the local tribe leader King Peter to sell them a tract of land at gunpoint.  The colony's further expansion came at the expense of the bordering native villages and tribes over the ensuing century.

That history, however, is not the author's focus--instead she has created the story of three superhumans from three groups who eventually made up the country of Liberia.  The first is Norman Aragon, the son of a white colonialist and a free Jamaican woman.  He inherits his father's pale skin but his mother's ability to disappear and move invisibly.  The second is June Dey, the son of an American slave woman and a ghost.  He soon discovers that he has superhuman strength and that bullets and blades have no effect on him.  The last is the heroine Gbessa who is outcast from a local Vai tribal village after she is proclaimed a witch as a young girl.  She soon finds out that while she can be hurt and feel intense pain she cannot die--she is eternal.  Moore weaves the tales of these three lives into an intersection that climaxes as they seek the future of a land and country.  This beautiful tapestry will leave a lasting impression on any reader--Africanist or not.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key References:
Library of Congress primary source information on ACS and Liberia origins
Powell's Interview: Wayétu Moore, Author of 'She Would Be King'
She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore review – magical visions of Liberia
In Wayétu Moore’s Ambitious Debut Novel, Liberia Is Reborn

Monday, April 13, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "The Insanity of God" To Change Your Perspective (Audible) (Somalia)

When many critics of Christianity think of missionaries they picture black-clad old-fashioned looking men and women proselytizing loudly in the streets--calling adamantly for repentance. If you fall into that category I challenge you to read this book--it will upend your perspective.

At one point Ripken's NGO was the ONLY ONE operating in Somalia--his team of 8 was feeding 50,000 refugees a day and running mobile health clinics around the country.  Without his efforts countless hundreds of thousands would have starved.  When no one else was there--he was--serving and loving the Somali people.    It was in his years there that he also learned the costs though of following his calling--he lost a son and hundreds of Somali friends who ended up believing in Jesus. He had this to say about religious persecution:

I’d never met a believer in persecution that wasn’t running for their life,” said Ripken. “In those years in Somalia, we had 150 followers of Jesus in the country. When we left, only four were left alive. They hunted them down like we would hunt animals in rural Kentucky. They killed four of my best friends in one day in Somalia."

But in a lifetime spent serving in high risk, war torn, countries he shares what he learned firsthand from persecuted Somalis, Chinese, Russians, and Ukrainians: persecution isn't something to be lamented:

The reason for persecution, then, is that people keep finding Jesus—and, then, they refuse to keep Him to themselves.”

These firsthand lessons are the result of what has turned into his life's mission--learning and sharing the stories of God at work throughout the globe--to date he and his wife have conducted more than 600 interviews in 72 countries.  

Regardless of your faith background, this book will challenge your perspective. 

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key Quotes:
"Our hope is that believers around the world will get close enough to the heart of God that the first images that come to mind when we hear the word “Muslim” are not Somali pirates or suicide bombers or violent jihadists or even terrorists. When we hear the word “Muslim,” we need to see and think of each and every individual Muslim as a lost person who is loved by God. We need to see each Muslim as a person in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. We need to see each Muslim as someone for whom Christ died.”

“Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution!

“The reason for persecution, then, is that people keep finding Jesus—and, then, they refuse to keep Him to themselves.”

“one of the most accurate ways to detect and measure the activity of God is to note the amount of opposition that is present.”

“Don’t you steal my joy! I took great joy that I was suffering in my country, so that you could be free to witness in your country.”

“You can only grow in persecution what you go into persecution with.”

"Lost people have a greater right to access Jesus than I have a right to exert my religious freedom.”

“I had always assumed that persecution was abnormal, exceptional, unusual, out of the ordinary. In my mind, persecution was something to avoid. It was a problem, a setback, a barrier. I was captivated by the thought: what if persecution is the normal, expected situation for a believer? And what if the persecution is, in fact, soil in which faith can grow? What if persecution can be, in fact, good soil? I began to wonder about what that might mean for the church in America—and I began to wonder about what that might mean for the potential church in Somalia.”

Key References (For Further Study)


Baptism: The Point of No Return A story from Somalia

Nik Ripken: Lessons from the persecuted world for America


Nik Ripken Suggested Book List

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "Diamonds, Gold, and War" to Explore the Poisoned Roots of South African History

*Audible read so I don't have notes or quotes since the audible app makes it virtually impossible to take notes and highlight sections to which you listen.  If you are trying to retain any information, quotes, etc. Audible is the worst.  You can highlight and annotate certain portions when you hear them, but there's no export function or way to transfer the highlighted audio sections to text.  I would pay money for an app that did this!

This book traces the origin of South Africa and the discovery of gold and diamonds there that sparked off a bloody conflict with Britain that ultimately led to the consolidation and foundation of the apartheid republic that existed until 1994.

This detailed history should be mandatory reading for any budding Africanist.  The book also highlights the out-sized role that Cecil Rhodes played in both southern Africa, the diamond industry, and the conflict.  The reader also learns the despicable acts that Rhodes committed over the span of his short 49-year life.   The main criticism one might find with Meredith's exhaustive history is its decidedly white-western focus.  This likely stems from the challenge in finding primary source material which could help better capture more of the African perspective.
Cecil Rhodes

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020,  2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Mister Drainpipe" to Discover the Power of Restored Dignity (Ethiopia)

Author Marc Secchia took a hiatus from his slew of successful fantasy novels to pen this heartfelt love letter to the homeless of Addis Ababa. I tore through this book in less than two days and I’ll warn you that this story will pierce even the hardest heart and (hopefully) change the way you think and interact with the homeless and “least” in your daily life.

“Mister Drainpipe” takes the reader into the mind of a deranged, older homeless man who can no longer recall his past identity and calls himself “Drainpipe” after the dank lodging in which he discovered many years before. When not begging for his daily “injera”, he spends his hours babbling senselessly and scaring women and children. These babblings are interrupted by rare moments of lucidity, however, as he considers the passersby and asks at one point:

Why did people who had so much grow tired of giving a few santimes?

This question frames a narrative that unfolds as part mystery, part searing indictment of how we treat (or totally ignore) the “least of us” in society. Indeed it only takes one small act of kindness, to arrest Drainpipe’s descent into madness and fundamentally change his life’s arc. As the net of generosity grows, Secchia’s Ethiopian characters offer sharp insight into the broader issues of endemic poverty noting that: “until we are able to address the fundamental restoration of human will and dignity, no program, no effort and no intervention, will truly succeed.” These observations land poignantly as they are balanced against the reality of a man for whom no program, effort, or intervention has helped.

Will Drainpipe rediscover and recapture his dignity and past identity? This question is answered against the backdrop of Ethiopia’s history over the past 75 years. One learns not only of the Derg’s genocidal horrors, but also the oblivious Emperor’s rule that let hundreds of thousands perish in famine. This history further covers both the unlikely ascension of Abiy Ahmed to the position of Prime Minister, as well as the efforts of the controversial activist Jawar Mohammed. Along the way, Secchia also treats the foreign reader with cultural insights that both educate and enlighten such as the use of the feminine in greeting between two males to denote a special and close friendship (i.e., Dehna-nesh, my brother?). It’s clear through this story that the author has a heart for not only Ethiopia as a country, but for its people, great and small.

As we follow Drainpipe’s journey, we see the miraculous, contagious power of generosity but we also see the hard work and personal sacrifice it requires. As Drainpipe notes near the story’s end: “it is strange how easily one forgets miracles.”

Related Ethiopian Reading:

The Shadow King
Beneath the Lion's Gaze

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key Quotes:

But now and again there might be a treasure. A smile. A kind greeting; not the automatic or guilty sort, but a genuine word. A murmured blessing. The brushing of fingertips against his upraised palm to give a coin rather than just to toss it toward his mat. These moments mattered.
Location: 691

Was the whole city one big diseased organ waiting to seize up?
Location: 843

The irony of severe water shortages in a country that supplied an estimated eighty-five percent of the water of the Nile, while Egypt built rice paddies in the desert.
Location: 1,640

History would record something about this year, 1985, in facts and figures and charts. They would agree how awful it all was. People would be unable to believe this had once been a green and fertile land, and too soon, the international news media would turn to another issue. Another need. Another disaster. And these faces would be lost forever.
Location: 1,851

People kissed hands or cheeks all the time when they were especially grateful. Maybe that wasn’t Oromo culture – he did not know – but it certainly was his, just like the shoulder bump signified informality and friendship.
Location: 2,329

And we use the feminine suffix to indicate a special fondness for someone. So I might say dehna-nesh rather than dehna-neh to tell someone that they’re my special friend. Dehna-nesh, my brother?”
Location: 2,490

Inibila, or ‘let’s eat together,’ meant unity. In the same way, Irreecha was a peaceful celebration of the year which had been, a time to thank Waaqa, or God, for one’s blessings. It was meant to be a time of thanksgiving and unity for the Oromo people.
Location: 2,501

“Under brutal suppression during the reign of Menelik II and subsequent regimes, Oromo cultural and religious gatherings were outlawed for over a century. However, in the last decade there has been a concerted revival of important Oromo practises, particularly at the Irreecha religious festival on the shores of Hora Harsadii, or Lake Hora. The deep values underpinning a uniquely Oromo worldview which are celebrated at Irreecha include peace and stability, abundance and provision for life, the preservation of law and order, and protection of the environment. These values describe the Oromummaa, or the core identity of Oromos.”
Location: 2,570

Why did people who had so much grow tired of giving a few santimes?
Location: 2,862

Their cars were 30 to 40 years old and required constant nursing and tinkering. After the Communist revolution, he remembered, cars used to be imported from the USSR – the little Ladas, which were renamed Fiat 131s. Few people could tell the difference, so everyone called them ‘Lada.’ The city’s lifeblood ran blue. The little Ladas were painted a cheerful blue colour with a white roof, as were the bulkier minibus taxis which were licensed to run regular routes in the city. They carried anything and everything on their roofs, from fridges to boxes to the odd goat bound for a family celebration.
Location: 2,979

The bars quietened.
Location: 3,034

‘Until we are able to address the fundamental restoration of human will and dignity, no program, no effort and no intervention, will truly succeed.’
Location: 3,322

Licking his fingertips despite the rudeness of the gesture. He left no portion upon the plate to politely indicate satiation and the host’s excellent provision, but
Location: 3,363

Location: 3,395

How could a man mourn for what he had forgotten? Only that his interior felt hollow.
Location: 3,463

What a droll expression. Tafa, was how friends greeted each other after a long separation. ‘You disappeared.’
Location: 3,645

Touching the instrument to his dry, cracked lips, he let the music run through him like a river.
Location: 3,684

Every person, from the lowest to the highest, should be afforded dignity. It’s a travesty of our society that we strip people of self-respect and opportunity, and treat them as outcasts. Dignity is the air and water of life. You need to rediscover your dignity, Tuhbo.”
Location: 4,095

If abstinence made the heart grow fonder
Location: 4,142

“Egzharbier ystillyn. I cannot thank you – how can I thank you? Egzharbier ystillyn … it still doesn’t say enough.”
Location: 4,248

Midday was not the hottest time of the day, but rather nine in the afternoon, according to Ethiopian time-telling which counted dawn as the ‘zero’ and midday as the sixth hour. Foreigners would say three o’clock.
Location: 4,393

And then came Nelson Mandela – did you know he has an Ethiopian passport? He received it in 1962 under the name of David Motsamayi, when he trained here in our country in guerrilla warfare.
Location: 4,430

and now he vividly recalled watching Timket in Gondar at Fasiledes’ Bath, a unique ceremony where the Orthodox believers leaped fully clothed into the waters of a huge pool surrounding that small medieval castle.
Location: 4,471

Toxic history required healing.
Location: 4,501

Tuhbo remembered the legend of the negarit, the great Ethiopian drum hollowed out of a baobab tree that was meant to be heard fifty kilometres away!
Location: 4,559

Always rumours, or wiray in Amharic, the word-of-mouth that often served best – or worst when the media was tightly controlled and real journalism, curtailed.
Location: 4,688

Some stones were only ever lifted by laughing at oneself.
Location: 4,771

“Y’zare injerachinen,” she agreed, quoting from the Lord’s Prayer. Our daily injera.
Location: 4,776

Fikir Indegena – Love Again.
Location: 4,813

He used the Amharic form meliaki, my angel, the fonder, more personal term – a term sometimes used as a nickname or endearment between lovers.
Location: 4,937

But it is strange how easily one forgets miracles.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Shadow King" to Discover a Forgotten Part in Ethiopia's History

Following the conclusion of World War II, Mussoloni (as the Ethiopians derisively referred to him) concocted a plan to give himself a slice of the colonial pie while simultaneously avenging his country’s late 19th century embarrassment at the Battle of Adua.

Kidane, the military leader in “The Shadow King” remarks to his men that the Italians “have come to rewrite history, to alter memory, to resurrect their dead and refashion them as heroes.”

At exiled Emperor Haile Selassie’s behest, Kidane assembles a local militia to fight against the invading forces. His wife Aster leads the women who trail the fighters, supplying them with food, bullets, and equipment. As Kidane’s forces suffer battlefield losses, Aster eventually convinces him to let her women fight. A character equal parts cruel and inspirational, Aster implores her fellow women to take their place in history and fight. Her servant, and narrator, Hirut describes Aster’s fervor: “She is one woman. She is many women. She is all the sound that exists in the world.”

And so the women fight and author Mengiste brings to light a forgotten and ignored piece of Ethiopia’s famed resistance against Italy. “I see you. I will always see you” the author remarks in the novel’s acknowledgements to the women of Ethiopia who would not let themselves be forgotten. The novel does not shirk away from the violence of not only war but of the Ethiopian society for women. Early on in the story, Kidane’s father notes that “somewhere, a woman is always weeping” because no matter who the victor is in a conflict, the mothers, daughters, and sisters bear the brunt of loss, injury, and death.

As the story unfolds, the Ethiopians fighters notice that one of their own bears a striking resemblance to the Emperor and decide to dress him as a “shadow king” in order to inspire the surrounding towns to mobilize and actively fight against the invaders. With periodic chapters imagining the helpless emperor in England, it quickly becomes apparent that he is less a king than his countrywomen fighting back in Abyssinia. Later in life, having survived not only a cruel stint as a prisoner of war but the war itself, Hirut realizes that “we were the Shadow King. We were those who stepped into a country left dark by an invading plague and gave new hope to Ethiopia’s people.”  "Plague" is an apt description for the Italian invaders as Mengiste lays bears the range of horrifying atrocities committed from searing mustard gas attacks to the ritual tossing of women and children prisoners off of a cliff.  These acts are all captured and framed through the eyes of Italian photographer/reluctant solider Ettore.  While his commander Fucelli orders him to document these horrors, Ettore readily acknowledges his guilt as he recalls the words of his father: "we must all suffer our consequences."

Finally, I can’t end this review without remarking on the talent of author Maaza Mengiste. I first read her debut novel “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze” last year and was struck by her writing’s beauty. Her talent has continued to grow and it’s evident as she pens stunning lines like:

“The sun highlights the hints of henna in Aster’s braided hair. It splashes a glow across her cheeks. Her eyes are liquid in the bright light.”

“[Selassie] stands beneath a soft drizzle that feels like a weeping sky.”

“But she cannot know that grief cradles at the beast of cruelty, and it hungers for more, and she is for the taking.”

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
**See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Read my review of Mengiste's other novel: "Beneath the Lion's Gaze"  
"Prevail" is a comprehensive history of Ethiopia's fight against Italy, my review of it is here.

Key Quotes:

23-4 “What’s lost is gone, my child, what is lost makes room for something else.” Berhe to Hirut as she mourns her rifle’s loss.

34 “Hirut recognizes for the first time that some memories should be barricaded by others, that those strong enough must hold the others at bay.”

89 “They have come to rewrite history, to alter memory, to resurrect their dead and  refashion them as heroes.” Kidane on Italian motives as they seek to avenge their loss at Adua in 1896.

93 “He stares as if he wants to charge, as if he understands the camera’s weakness. As if he already knows the difference between what one sees and what is true. He is the only one whose mouth turns up on one side in both a smile and in mockery.” Aklilu, lover of Hirut in one of the pictures.

101 “The sun highlights the hints of henna in Aster’s braided hair. It splashes a glow across her cheeks. Her eyes are liquid in the bright light.”

112 “She is one woman. She is many women. She is all the sound that exists in the world.” Aster as she implores the women to rally to support the their soldiers.

114 “We’re more than this...we’re more than this...we’re more than this...we’re more than this.” Aster’s words to her fellow women as she implores them to realize their destiny to rise above their station and society’s expectation to them.

116 “Who remembers what it means to be more than what this world believes of us?” Aster’s final words in speech to her fellow women.

119 “And so somewhere, a woman is always weeping.” Kidane’s father on the cost of war and death.

133 “There is nothing that can come from this but blood and more blood.” Ettore

139 “But she cannot know that grief cradles at the beast of cruelty, and it hungers for more, and she is for the taking.” Chorus as Hirut is discovered in camp with her stolen rifle.

168 “That the dead are stronger. That they know no physical boundaries. They reside in the corners of every memory and rise up, again and again, to resist all our efforts to leave them behind and let them rest.” Hirut considers death in war.

173 “Yibeqal. We’ve had enough.” Mussolini’s words that Selassie that repeats to himself as he resolves to fight.

191 “She once believed she belonged to herself.” Hirut after Kidane rapes her and Aklilu finds her unable to move.

214 “As soon as a country builds an empire, he says, it has to decide who is who.” Fucelli on Italy’s descent into nazism.

237 “All you have to do is sit on the horse, Hirut says to him. She has to stop herself from patting his arm. We will all stand in the shadow of your light, she adds, repeating what Aster told her: To be in the presence of our emperor is to stand before the sun

272 “To kill: to make dead, to extinguish life, to murder. Ghostly apparitions have been trudging past him since the night before, motioning him back to Ethiopia: Haile Selassie, Jan Hoy, Teferi, we’re waiting. Where have you gone? Teferi, Haile Selassie, come home.” Imagined thoughts of the Emperor as he sits in England and hears of the Italian atrocities against women and children.

297-98 “We must all suffer our consequences.” Ettore’s father tells his mother as a baby.

298 “It is the land the carries our suffering when we die. It is the land that remains the same, no matter what we call ourselves. And what he meant, Lev would later learn, was this: that only soil will remember who we are, nothing but earth is strong enough to withstand the burden of memory.” Ettore’s grandfather’s advice to his son as they flee Odessa for Italy.

317 “She lets herself disappear until all that remains on that bloodstained bed is a girl remolding herself out of a rage.” Aster described after her wedding night but also speaking to the role of women in the society writ large.

318 “He stands beneath a soft drizzle that feels like a weeping sky.” Selassi described in England.

351 “Knowing only he will ever see the way hatred sways so easily between shame and fear.” Ettore as he watches the eyes of Hirut as Fucelli beats her.

402 “Every sun creates a shadow and not all are blest to stand in the light.” Minim, the shadow king as he returns to normal life following his service in the war.

423 “We were the Shadow King. We were those who stepped into a country left dark by an invading plague and gave new hope to Ethiopia’s people.” Hirut thinks as she hands Ettore the letter from his father.

428 “I see you. I will always see you.” the author in her acknowledgements to the women of Ethiopia who would not let themselves be erased.

Key Takeaways

6 Dead must be heard and known--that is the primordial call that Mengiste answers in this novel.

28 The memory of war and taking lives irrevocably changes one.

99 Aster mimics courage in order to foster it in her self.

119 The true cost of war is always born by women--no matter the victor--mothers, wives, sisters, lovers.

132 Ethiopians would purposely mispronounce Mussolini’s last name as: Mussoloni

180 Emperor’s command from abroad to Kidane to risk everything

190/226 In an awful rape scene (Kidane raping Hirut) shows further demarcation of class, power, worth, male dominance. His intrusion--his rape of her--forces her to vacate her own body. We later see her victory through indifference--through her detachment from the brutal act he tries to perpetrate upon her.

191 Aklilu’s love after the rape helps to restore her dignity as he feeds her.

219 More an observation: the sharp intake of air when Ethiopians speak

232 The notion of a shadow kings and shadow queens is rooted in Ethiopian and broader mythology and provides an arc of hope in the novel

241 Names of the emperor: Jan Hoy, Negus Nagast, Abbatachin, Haile Selassie, Ras Teferi Mekkonen, King of Kings--these names flow through the head of Hirut as she emerges of the bodygrad of the Shadow King

272 Italian horrors against women and children reach Emperor in England, where he is surviving in the shadows. In this case, the actual Emperor is perhaps the actual shadow king referred to in the book’s title for he is only the shadow of a ruler, impotent and powerless.

292 Jewish racism just provokes further descent into depravity as Ettore is left with what he deems to be little choice. This also shows that the evils are racism are a spectrum that eventually consumes everyone.

293 Even as the Italians toss Ethiopian children off the cliff to their death, they maintain their honor in the pronouncement of their names. They have a name!.

315 Wow, balance of societal order is ingrained in Hirut’s understanding of the world as she is appalled that brutality can reach the body of Aster (reminiscent of Coates’ notion of “the body” in “Between the world and me.”

410 The costs of war--Ettore’s life is eternally and irrevocably damaged and ruined.

Key References for Further Study

104 Astenagir--touted as better than khat for strength: https://botanicaethiopia.com/herbs/
Datura stramonium

313 Fucelli, the Butcher of Benghazi

Rape of Hirut parallel to Italy’s incursion into Ethiopia

Notion of memory


Friday, October 4, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "To Stop a Warlord" To See the Impact of Determination (Uganda, Sudan, CAR, DRC)

(Audible Read)  Read by the author Shannon Davis, To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace, was a phenomenal "read".  What I enjoyed most about this story was the way in which it challenged my own western conceptions of what justice means (even if I didn't complete agree with the outcomes).

This book is the story of how one woman created a new paradigm in how NGOs/charitable organizations should/could/can confront atrocity and evil by partnering with the military.  Shannon Davis is the CEO of Bridgeway Foundation and she decided to do something about Joseph Kony and his reign of terror.

The short story is that Bridgeway partnered with a private military contractor to train a special Ugandan military unit to hunt down Joseph Kony and his band of murderous, child-soldier recruiting, rape and pillaging, terrorist men.

In the end, they never got Kony (he's still at large) but they decimated his army, notably by shifting their tactics to one focused on recruiting his followers to "come home."  Practically, this meant a pivot towards a psyops campaign that included everything from leaflets, to radio broadcasts, to flying aircraft with a speaker playing recorded messages from the soldiers' families.  Of course, none of this would have been effective if Uganda and the international community had decided to prosecute every returnee.  Instead they made it clear that only the few major figures that were indicted by the International Criminal Court would be pursued legally.  The rest would be welcomed home and reintegrated into their home communities.  What made this process all the more incredible is Davis' storytelling where on one page she details the brutal rapes and murders of an individual and on the next a community welcoming that person home.  Honestly, this was hard to swallow for me and it's evident that it was difficult for the author as well, however; ultimately, this is a story about grace--which can be defined as undeserved forgiveness.  In this case, it's one of the highest forms of grace because it costs people so much (for more on this google "cheap grace bonhoeffer").

Other highlights include Davis' collaboration with Invisible Children, and her alternating chapters narrated by David Ocitti, a former LRA child soldier who Kony's henchmen forced to kill others just like him.  David's journey is remarkable as he embarks on a journey to broker grace and recruit home other children like himself.  But ultimately, it's Davis' clarion voice--reaching out with a mother's tenderness--humble with her own self-doubts that make this story such a powerful one.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
**See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key References (for further study):
How One CEO Helped Counter the Violence of a Warlord
2019 NPR Interview with Shannon Davis
Can a Court in Uganda Deliver Justice to Victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army?