Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir is subtitled “A Memoir of Survival in Darfur” which gives you a pretty good idea of what you are in for. This was another Early Reviewer title, and it took me a few weeks to pick it up after receiving because I wasn’t sure I was up for the subject matter. I’m glad I did though. The book is very accessible and does a good job of personalizing the conflict.
Like many people I’m sure, I knew that “bad things” were happening in Darfur, but I didn’t have a good idea of the specifics of the conflict. Bashir explains it well through the lens of her own life story. She is a black African from the Zaghawa tribe, and she explains that the conflict exists between the Arab minority that rules the country and the black African tribes that make up the majority of Sudan’s population. Bashir is also quite an exceptional woman. Thanks to a supportive father, she leaves her village to attend private schools and is accepted into the university in Khartoum, where she earns her medical degree. Writing about her childhood is especially powerful, because it makes clear just how much has been lost by the conflict – not just lives, homes and bodily integrity, but an entire way of life, her village community and many others just like it.
It is worth noting that Bashir’s memoir was written with a professional writer, Damien Lewis. I think that this is part of why the book is so readable and think it was a good decision to make. I would recommend the book.