A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa

In This Review

A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa
By Alexis Okeowo
Hachette, 2017
256 pp.

Avoiding standard reportorial clichés about Africa, Okeowo, a Nigerian American journalist, narrates four stories about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. One story describes the oddly resilient relationship between two young Ugandans kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army: a man forced to fight for the group and an abducted woman whom its leaders assigned to be the man’s sex slave—and who now live together as husband and wife after having separately escaped the militants’ clutches. Another describes a young Somali woman who pursues her passion for basketball in war-torn Mogadishu despite receiving death threats from radical Islamists. A third portrays the life of a modern-day slave in rural Mauritania and then profiles the work of a Mauritanian abolitionist. And a final tale revolves around a young Nigerian girl who escaped after being kidnapped by the jihadists of Boko Haram and a middle-aged man who leads a group of citizens fighting against them. Okeowo masterfully fleshes out her subjects, allowing them to come alive on the page while also capturing the complexities of contemporary African societies. She never holds back on the brutal details, yet the reader comes away somehow more sanguine about the region. 

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