How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana, with Abigail Pesta

how dare the sun riseHow Dare the Sun Rise begins with Sandra Uwiringiyimana’s recollection of a violent night in a Rwandan refugee camp — the night her younger sister was brutally killed by soldiers.

Driven to Rwanda by ethnic persecution in their homeland of the Democratic Republic of Congo (also known as the DRC or Congo-Kinshasa), Sandra’s family struggled to reunite and find safety.  Eventually, they were given refugee status through the United Nations and immigrated to upstate New York.  There, Sandra faced a new set of challenges: acclimating to a different culture with unfamiliar expectations around race and gender.  As she settled into life as an American teenager, she turned her turmoil over the horrors of her past into passionate activism — and finds a worldwide platform.

Note: trigger warnings for sexual abuse and child death. 

Quote:
“Ten years before the flames, I was born in the mountains, a scenic land of jewel-green fields, bamboo trees, and forests inhabited by gorillas, elephants, and chimpanzees.  My people lived in small round mud huts with pointy roofs made of dried grass.  They raised cattle and farmed the land.  My parents grew up in these towering mountains, the Hauts Plateaux, in a province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo called South Kivu.  When they were young, my mom and dad lived in neighboring villages that were about a day apart by foot.  There were no roads, no cars.  Everyone walked everywhere, and they still do.  We left the mountains when I was around two years old, in 1996, so I don’t remember much of our life there.  But today when I see pictures of the region, known as Minembwe, it looks like the most idyllic place on earth, with lush, leafy mountaintops scraping the clouds and miles and miles of green.”

Author:
Sandra Uwiringiyimana is an author, activist, and public speaker.  She has spoken at the Women in the World Summit and in front of the United Nations.  How Dare the Sun Rise is her first book.

Published:  2017
Length:  304 pages
Main Settings:  Rwanda; New York, United States
Secondary Setting:  Democratic Republic of the Congo

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich

E2119CB3-9FC6-4F3D-A3CA-F28F0CFA3D4FIn late August 1986, a power surge at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant caused a days-long fire that unleashed unprecedented amounts of radiation into the surrounding areas of Ukraine and Belarus.

In Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana Alexievich records the profoundly tragic stories of the accident’s victims — from members of the clean-up crew at the plant to soldiers assigned to work in the area to parents of small children affected by the radiation.  In each short, heart-wrenching story, difficult questions loom:  why did this happen, what could have prevented it, and how can life continue after such a profound disaster?  By documenting the lives and deaths of the men, women, and children impacted by the blast, Alexievich gives voice to both the survivors and the ghosts of the world’s greatest nuclear catastrophe.

Quote:
“One time I filmed people who’d been in concentration camps.  They try to avoid meeting each other.  I understand that.  There’s something unnatural about getting together and remembering the war.  People who’ve been through that kind of humiliation together, or who’ve seen what people can be like, at the bottom, run from one another.  There’s something I felt in Chernobyl, something I understood that I don’t really want to talk about.  About the fact, for example, that all our humanistic ideas are relative.  In an extreme situation, people don’t behave the way you read about in books.  Sooner the other way around.  People aren’t heroes.”

Author:
Svetlana Alexievich is a Belarusian author and journalist.  Her books include War’s Unwomanly Face; Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from a Forgotten War; Enchanted with Death; and Voices from Chernobyl.  In 2015, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Published:  1997
Length:  240 pages 
Set in:  Belarus and Ukraine
Translated by:  Keith Gessen

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams

the hour of landWritten to coincide with the centennial of the U.S. National Park Service, The Hour of Land explores how the preservation of public lands has changed American history and culture.  In a powerful and often poetic voice, Terry Tempest Williams articulates her own intimate experiences with national parks and monuments, and decries the destructive forces of development and climate change.

By focusing on 12 specific parks — including Big Bend in Texas, Acadia in Maine, and Canyonlands in Utah — Williams shows the rich diversity of American landscapes.  Also excellent on audiobook, The Hour of Land will compel you to grab a walking stick and set out for your nearest national park.

Quote:
“Knowledge matters.  Justice matters.  Hindsight shows us our blind spots and biases; we can recognize ourselves as human beings caught in the cultural mores of a specific time.  This is not to excuse the brutal and tenebrific acts of the past, but to consider them in the light of what we know now.  By definition, our national parks in all their particularity and peculiarity show us as much about ourselves as the landscapes they honor and protect. They can be seen as holograms of an America born of shadow and light; dimensional; full of contradictions and complexities. Our dreams, our generosities, our cruelties and crimes are absorbed into these parks like water.”

Author:
Terry Tempest Williams is an activist, memoirist, and novelist.  Her works include When Women Were Birds, Refuge, Desert Quartet, and The Hour of Land.  She divides her time between Utah and Wyoming.

Published:  2016
Length:  397 pages
Set in:  Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, United States

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston

lost city of the monkey godIn The Lost City of the Monkey God, Douglas Preston details the centuries-long rumors of an abandoned city somewhere deep in the remote Mosquitia region of eastern Honduras — and the thrilling, high-tech mission to find it.

By scanning the dense jungle from an airplane with a machine that maps the land with lasers, a team of scientists was able to identify large and unmistakably human-made structures.  But as they set out to see the lost city for themselves, the expedition faced danger from all sides: unseen predators, quicksand, and lethal diseases living within even the smallest of insects.

Written in Preston’s engaging voice, The Lost City of the Monkey God examines many topics:  Honduran history, controversy in modern archaeology, the cruel destruction carried out by conquistadors, and how disease can wreak havoc on populations.

Quote
“Through it all, I peered out the window, transfixed.  I can scarcely find words to describe the opulence of the rainforest that unrolled below us.  The tree crowns were packed together like puffballs, displaying every possible hue, tint, and shade of green.  Chartreuse, emerald, lime, aquamarine, teal, bottle, glaucous, asparagus, olive, celadon, jade, malachite — mere words are inadequate to express the chromatic infinities.  Here and there the canopy was disrupted by a treetop smothered in enormous purple blossoms.  Along the central valley floor, the heavy jungle gave way to lush meadows.  Two meandering streams glittered in the sunlight, where they joined before flowing out the notch.  We were flying above a primeval Eden, looking for a lost city using advanced technology to shoot billions of laser beams into a jungle that no human beings had entered for perhaps five hundred years:  a twenty-first-century assault on an ancient mystery.”

Author:
Douglas Preston is an American novelist and non-fiction author.  His works include The Monster of Florence, the Wyman Ford series, the Agent Pendergast series, and the Gideon Crew series (the latter two are collaborations with author Lincoln Child). 

Published:  2017
Length:  328 pages
Set in:  Mosquitia, Honduras

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco with Lauren Oyler

who thought this was a good ideaWhen Alyssa Mastromonaco began working for political campaigns, she had no idea she would one day serve as President Barack Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.  Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is a collection of stories about her life, interspersed with solid career advice and the quirky lessons she learned while wending her way through the strange world of high-stakes politics.

Told in a frank and funny voice, Mastromonaco’s memoir is as much about the intricate details of working for the president as it is the importance of carrying emergency stashes of stomach medication when visiting foreign dignitaries.  From scheduling snafus to the unique challenges of finding a women’s bathroom in the White House, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is a delight from start to finish.

Quote:
“When I first met Barack Obama in December 2004, I’m not sure he liked me very much.  I had worked for John Kerry on and off for four years, and although the secretary of state has a reputation for being aloof, the two of us had had a very warm and close relationship, pretty much from the moment I started as an assistant in his press and scheduling office in the spring of 2000.  I expected my rapport with Senator-elect Obama, who was much closer to me in age and disposition, would be similar.  Plus, I was coming off the presidential campaign for the Democratic nominee. I figured Obama, who was basically unknown at the time, would be thrilled that someone with so much experience — as well as so much wit and charm and talent! — would want to come and work for him.  I was wrong; Barack Obama is tougher than that.”

Author:
Alyssa Mastromonaco was Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2014.  Since then, she was worked for Vice Media and A&E Networks.  She is originally from Rhinebeck, New York, and Who Thought This Was a Good Idea is her first published book.

Published:  2017
Length:  244 pages
Set in:  Washington, D.C., United States

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar

deep down darkOn August 5, 2010, tremors ran through the San José mine outside of Copiapó, Chile, collapsing tunnels and trapping 33 miners three miles below the ground.  The result of hundreds of interviews, Deep Down Dark details the harrowing 69-day rescue effort and the toll taken on the men buried within the earth.

By focusing on a handful of the miners, Héctor Tobar elucidates their stories — from their initial despair, to the spark of hope at the possibility of rescue, and then finally to the strange and invasive effects of their sudden fame.  Filled with moments of acute emotion and explosive tension, Deep Down Dark is an illuminating and humanizing examination of the story that captured the world.

Quote:
“Franklin is contemplating a return to an earlier, simpler, and nonfamous version of himself: He will be part of a couple again, with the mother of his children.  As he thinks about the goodness of this personal transformation, his embrace of humility, he sees the workingmen around him getting puffed-up heads about how important they are and the glory that awaits them on the surface: They’re even wearing a kind of national team jersey as they gather for their underground Independence Day celebration.  It seems silly to Franklin for his fellow miners to think of themselves as national heroes when all they’ve done is gotten themselves trapped in a place where only the desperate and the hard up for cash go to suffer and toil. They are famous now, yes, but that heady sense of fullness that fame gives you, that sense of being at the center of everything, will disappear quicker than they could possibly imagine. Franklin tries to speak this truth to his fellow miners, but he does so halfheartedly, because he knows the only way to learn it is to live it.”

Author:
Héctor Tobar is a novelist and journalist, and worked for more than a decade as a national and foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.  His nonfiction books include Deep Down Dark and Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States, and his novels are The Tattooed Soldier and The Barbarian Nurseries.  

Published:  2014
Length:  320 pages
Set in:  Copiapó, Chile

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

We Are Not Such Things: The Murder of a Young American, a South African Township, and the Search for Truth and Reconciliation by Justine van der Leun

we are not such thingsIn 1993, during the final days of apartheid in South Africa, a white American Fulbright scholar named Amy Biehl was killed by a mob of young black protestors in the township of Gugulethu outside Cape Town.  Her story — from the violence of her death to her parents’ swift forgiveness of their daughter’s killers — came to symbolize the transcendent success of South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Two decades later, Justine van der Leun moved to South Africa with her husband and began to research Amy Biehl’s story in hopes of writing a book for American audiences.  As she interviewed people who had been in Gugulethu on the day of the murder, including the men convicted of the crime, strange discrepancies began to emerge in their stories.  We Are Not Such Things is Van der Leun’s untangling of the complex narratives surrounding Amy Biehl and her killers — and her search for the  messy and elusive truth.

Quote:
Until I met Mzi at a burger shop downtown, I had been tracking the same story that every journalist before me had written, except that my aim had been to tell for the first time the full tale as it stretched over two decades. But Mzi informed me that he believed that this long-accepted story of the circumstances of Amy’s death was not exactly accurate.  His revelation had led me, in a series of nearly unbelievable coincidences, to a meeting I had had the day before.  After months of frenzied searching, I had finally found an old and ruined man who had also been in Gugulethu on August 25, 1993, though few remembered him.  Nobody had ever told his account of that day, nor made the chilling links between what had happened to him and what had happened to Amy Biehl five hours later and a quarter mile away. The old man knew something about brutal mobs and racial violence, and he was the final piece in the jigsaw I had been painstakingly piecing together for two years.

Author:
Justine van der Leun is the author of Marcus of Umbria, a travel memoir, and We Are Not Such Things.  She has written for Harper’s and The Guardian, and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Published:  2016
Length:  448 pages
Set in:  Gugulethu and Cape Town, South Africa

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales Of A Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison

whatever you do dont run

Filled with humor and tense is-he-about-to-get-eaten moments, Whatever You Do, Don’t Run details Peter Allison’s adventures as a career safari guide in Botswana.  From swimming with elephant herds to accidentally stepping on crocodiles to facing down charging lions, Allison may seem at first to have a death wish.  Fortunately, his genuine respect and understanding of animals allows him navigate even the most dangerous situations with skill and — occasionally — grace.  Told in a funny, familiar voice, Allison’s stories come alive on the page, leaving readers to feel the searing heat of the Motswana sun and the smell of a disgruntled water buffalo’s breath.

Also highly recommended on audiobook.

Quote:
“Other elephant herds came and went in the months that followed, but they had a wary wildness to them, easy to see in the way they held themselves as I approached.  I could not get as close and would never have tried swimming with them or attempted what I did the next time Salvador and her family came to Mombo.  I found the group ambling along and felt a surge of fondness for them, which doubled when I saw that Salvador’s daughter (easily recognized as she had inherited her mother’s buck teeth) had had an addition since she had last been with us.  The little chap was already walking confidently but still had little control over the many thousands of muscles in his trunk.  It swung like a rubber hose under too much pressure, on occasion so violently that it would startle him and send him scurrying to his mother for protection.  Like every other guide or wildlife lover who is eventually eaten or trampled, I felt that I had a bond with this herd that would make me safe with them.  I wanted to try my luck again.”

Author:
Peter Allison is the author of Whatever You Do, Don’t Run; Don’t Look Behind You; and How to Walk a Puma.  Born in Australia, he currently lives and works in South Africa.

Published:  2007
Length:  246 pages
Set in:  Botswana

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

first they killed my fatherIn this heartbreaking and compelling memoir, Loung Ung shares the story of her childhood in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime.  At the age of five, she and her family were forced to leave their home in Phnom Penh and seek safety in the countryside.  There, her family faced the constant threat of starvation and violence.  Eventually, the children were scattered to different camps, and Loung Ung was trained as a child soldier and subjected to endless propaganda.

First They Killed My Father is the tense, inspiring tale of a daughter who, undeterred by horrific circumstances, never stopped trying to reunite with her surviving family members.

Quote:
“In the dark, the world is quiet and unhurried as streetlights flicker on and off.  Restaurants close their doors and food carts disappear into side streets.  Some cyclo drivers climb into their cyclo to sleep while others continue to peddle around, looking for fares.  Sometimes when I feel brave, I walk over to the edge of the railing and look down at the lights below.  When I’m very brave, I climb onto the railing, holding on to the banister very tightly.  With my whole body supported by the railing I dare myself to look at my toes as they hang at the edge of the world.”

Author:
Loung Ung is an author, activist, and public speaker.  Born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, she emigrated to the United States after surviving the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime.  She has published two memoirs: First They Killed My Father and Lucky Girl.

Published:  2000
Length:  238 pages
Set in:  Cambodia

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Jennifer Steil

the woman who fell from the skyWhen Jennifer Steil arrives in Yemen to teach a course on journalism to the staff at English-language newspaper The Yemen Observer, she plans to stay for only a few short weeks.  But both the city of Sana’a and its people leave a strong impression, and soon she is returning to become the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

Steil’s year in Yemen is filled with long working hours, cultural misunderstandings, and the blasphemy trial of another editor at the newspaper.  She forms close friendships with some co-workers and and bitter rivalries with others, and constantly struggles to impart western ideals of fair and unbiased reporting to her staff.  Written in a candid voice, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky balances Steil’s personal narrative with compelling insights into the state of journalism in Yemen.

Quote:
“I stood next to Sabri on the flat, dusty rooftop and gazed around me.  Sand-colored mountains rose from the plain in every direction.  Having spent my formative years in Vermont, I have always found the sight of mountains enormously reassuring, and this morning was no exception.  Below us stood the fantasia in gingerbread that is Sana’a’s Old City, a cluster of tall, square, cookie-colored homes trimmed with what looked like white frosting, surrounded by thick, high walls.  Sabri pointed out some of the more prominent of the city’s hundreds of mosques, liberally sprinkled across the city in every direction, their slender minarets thrust perpetually toward God.”

Author:
Jennifer Steil is an American journalist and the author of the novel The Ambassador’s Wife and the memoir The Woman Who Fell from the Sky.  She currently lives in La Paz, Bolivia.

Published:  2010
Length:  352 pages
Set in:  Sana’a, Yemen

BUY THIS BOOK:

Amazon

Book Depository

IndieBound


Disclosure: Read the World receives a small commission for items purchased through the above links. Any revenue generated contributes directly to the cost of running this site.