Monday, February 22, 2010

Tears of the Desert

Some stories carry the power to grab attention and move people to action. Halima Bashir, in Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur, entices the reader into the heart of her village life where family is everything, where eating alone is considered worse than death. We’re with her through her “cutting time” (female circumcision)—a wrenching, inerasable scene—and as she confronts many hurdles to get an education and later become a physician.

Darfur becomes engulfed in war. One day Dr. Bashir treats forty young schoolgirls who were gang- raped by the Janjaweed. Their injuries are so severe she must stitch them without anesthesia to prevent them from bleeding to death. After recounting the horrific incident to foreigners, she herself is beaten and raped. Bashir is a tough woman, but caught up in an unspeakably brutal situation.

For years I’ve heard about the mind-boggling statistics of death and destruction in Darfur. I even got modestly involved in efforts to put international pressure to stop the violence there through But still, reading her story moved me like nothing before. How can I read this, I asked myself, and not try to do something, do something to help the people there?

That is the power of story.


  1. I agree, stories are powerful, and this one is a great example of that. More people need to read the story though. Unfortunately the majority of people just want to be entertained, and are a bit egocentric -- if it doesn't directly impact them they really can't fully comprehend how atrocious it truly is.

    What we all need to realize is that what affects one, affects all...

  2. Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I hope lots of people do read this book. It would be impossible to read it and not be moved. It would be a good book for book clubs.