This is one of those books that impresses upon the reader a sense of the unthinkable vastness of the world. Deep in a dusty, sun-baked desert, Dabaab is the city of thorns. Literally, as many in the overcrowded camp build houses from thorny trees, and metaphorically, as its denizens navigate a maze of corruption, violence, privation. Rawlence chronicles with a clear prose unadorned with drama or flair - it’s not needed. It’s a book that gives a new understanding of the depth of the human soul, giving context to the lives we lead on the other side of the world.
The Fulani of West Africa have three seasons: rainy, dry, and hoping—hoping for the rain that falls later, sparser, and evaporates sooner each year. Until every season is dry, the Fulani follow ancient practices so engrained that everything—greetings, meals, betrothals, adolescent mischief—is prescribed and carries the weight of ritual. Badkhen spent a year herding livestock across the savannah with the Diakayaté family, and her account, as compassionate as it is breathtakingly vivid, shows that the nomadic life “was not mindful meditation…it was hard work.” Child mortality is high; physical comforts few. While beauty lies in bones that surface like “a macabre filigree,” the constant leave-taking means regularly having “your heart broken and reset like a bone.”
If Chucky Taylor’s extraordinary and disturbing story was to be presented as fiction, critics might struggle to suspend their disbelief. However, Johnny Dywer’s investigative journalism sheds light on a recent history that is all-too-real; how a teenage boy, born and raised in an anonymous Orlando suburb, went on to commit a string of atrocities against the people of Liberia. American Warlord begins with the rise of Liberia’s brutal dictator, Charles Taylor, and covers the time he spent in the USA, where he impregnated the woman who would give birth to his son, Chucky. Dwyer spent five years researching this project, traveling to Liberia, interviewing US officials, and even getting in contact with Chucky himself (now in an American prison). A meticulous and insightful writer, the breadth of Dwyer's efforts show on every page.