A Woman of Firsts: The Midwife Who Built a Hospital and Changed the World – Edna Adan Ismail and Wendy Holden
Edna saw first-hand how poor healthcare, lack of education and ancient superstitions had devastating effects on Somaliland’s people, especially its women. When she suffered the trauma of FGM herself as a young girl at the bidding of her mother, Edna’s determination was set.
The first midwife to practise in Somaliland, Edna became a formidable teacher and campaigner for women’s health. As her country was swept up in its bloody fight for independence, Edna rose to become its First Lady and first female cabinet minister.
She built her own hospital, brick by brick, training future generations in what has been hailed as one of the Horn of Africa’s finest university hospitals
This is Edna’s truly remarkable story.
The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History – Aida Edemariam
A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over the next century, her world changed beyond recognition.
She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation, Allied bombardment and exile from her city, the ascent and fall of Emperor Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. She endured all these things alongside parenthood, widowhood and the death of children.
Aida Edemariam retells her grandmother’s stories of a childhood surrounded by proud priests and soldiers, of her husband’s imprisonment, of her fight for justice – all of it played out against an ancient cycle of festivals and the rhythms of the seasons.
King Leopold’s Ghost – Adam Hochschild
In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River.
Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million—all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian.
Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold’s Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust.
Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold’s Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo—too long forgotten—onto the conscience of the West.
Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War – Mark Bowden
On October 3, 1993, about a hundred U.S. soldiers were dropped by helicopter into a teeming market in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia, to abduct two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord.
The action was supposed to take an hour. Instead, they spent a long and terrible night fighting thousands of armed Somalis. By morning, eighteen Americans were dead, and more than seventy badly injured.
Mark Bowden’s gripping narrative is one of the most exciting accounts of modern war ever written–a riveting story that captures the heroism, courage and brutality of battle.
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa – Peter Godwin
After his father’s heart attack in 1984, Peter Godwin began a series of pilgrimages back to Zimbabwe, the land of his birth, from Manhattan, where he now lives.
On these frequent visits to check on his elderly parents, he bore witness to Zimbabwe’s dramatic spiral downwards into thejaws of violent chaos, presided over by an increasingly enraged dictator.
And yet long after their comfortable lifestyle had been shattered and millions were fleeing, his parents refuse to leave, steadfast in their allegiance to the failed state that has been their adopted home for 50 years.
Then Godwin discovered a shocking family secret that helped explain their loyalty. Africa was his father’s sanctuary from another identity, another world.