Darfur United


This is pretty stinkin’ cool. Here is a soccer team called Darfur United, who hopes to play in the 2012 Viva World Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is a tournament for nationless people held at the end of May.

The team is coached by i-ACT, a California-based nonprofit who has been working in the refugee camps of eastern Chad since 2005. If you’re interested in helping with support, go here.


On my shelf: Two journalists

It’s been a month or so, but I scored a couple of good finds at Border’s going-out-of-business sale. The last weekend the store was open I stumbled into a half empty store with blazing yellow 80 and 90 percent off banners. Here are two books that I got:

“The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe” by Peter Godwin

I just started reading this, and it’s really good. I love me a good journalistic book on an African leader. Godwin writes with some authority having grown up in Zimbabwe. To report for this book, he goes where other journalists couldn’t have gone as he interviews people (some off the record) and recalls the events after Mugabe lost the 2008 election.

“Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran” by Roxana Saberi

The main reason that I picked this book up is because it is written by Saberi, a childhood role model of mine. As a teen growing up in North Dakota, I was a fan of hers when she became Miss North Dakota in 1997. As an Asian American in a primarily white state, I was excited to see another Asian American (Saberi is Japanese and Iranian) win. When I found out that she became a international journalist, I had even more to admire about her. So, I’m excited to see what her memoir reveals about the woman and her experiences being imprisoned in Iran as much as it does about her country of origin.

‘Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness’

Last week I bought an early copy of the newly released “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness” by one of my favorite writers, Alexandra Fuller. I am very much looking forward to sinking my teeth into this one because on Monday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. she will be at Powell’s in Portland on her book tour. Since it was a book reading a few years ago that first introduced me to Fuller’s work, it will be a treat to see her again.

In “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness,” Fuller revisits Africa and gives us a prequel to her first book and memoir, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.” In it she makes her quirky mother Nicola Fuller the star of the narrative, and I’m sure it will be equally insightful and humorous. Fuller has a way with words making the ordinary seem extraordinary and shining light and meaning on universal issues.

I reviewed her book “Scribbling the Cat” last year. Read it here.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

I have heard about the women of Liberia and their role in the end of the civil war in 2003. One of my friends who graduated recently from PSU’s graduate conflict resolution program told me about their bravery and faith in demanding peace in their country. But that’s where my knowledge ends, so I was excited to find out there is a screening in Portland of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a documentary completed a few years ago. The film has been screened around the world to all sorts of groups NGO workers, downtrodden women, politicians and film lovers. It won Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the screening or just wait for it on Netflix, but for those interested in attending it is from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, May 21, at PCC Sylvania ST 101. For more information about the film, visit: http://www.praythedevilbacktohell.com/v3/.

Child soldier tells his story

REVIEW: “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” by Ishmael Beah (2007)


I like nonfiction in general, but I love memoirs. There is an intimacy about them that can’t be captured in nonfiction. Ishmael Beah’s “A Long Way Gone” is like that.

Beah’s story in his own voice is much more powerful than it would be written by a journalist or biographer. Beah, who got caught in the crossfire of a war in Sierra Leone, digs into the part of his memory that most people like to keep locked up for good. He pulls out horrifying stories of being drugged as a child soldier and brainwashed into committing violent acts during a war he doesn’t understand.

The book is worth reading because it educates one about the appalling practice of recruiting boys as soldiers in many parts of the world. But ultimately it is a good book because it is about a boy. Beah’s story is a simple story about a boy who likes rap music who becomes a soldier and how that boy grows beyond his trama. It is an encouraging testament to the possibilities for change in a violent world.

Other similar recommended books are:

  • “Strength in What Remains,” by Tracy Kidder (2009). Deo, a Burundian medical student, escapes ethnic violence in his country and enters the U.S. illegally. Deo goes from a squatter in New York City to a Columbia medical school student to a founder of a Burundian clinic.
  • “What is the What,” by Dave Eggers (2006). Written as a fictionalized memoir, “What is the What” follows the life of Deng, a Sudanese boy whose will to survive guides him through Southern Sudan during a war. Deng’s journey goes through what seem like endless perils until he eventually reaches the U.S. as a refugee. There he must overcome a new set of obstacles.

War affects us all

REVIEW: “Scribbling the Cat,” by Alexandra Fuller (2004)


I haven’t accidentally stumbled on a better writer since I saw Alexandra Fuller speak at Wordstock in Portland in October 2007. That day she read an excerpt from “Scribbling the Cat,” in which she arrives on a small lake island with an ex-soldier and is essentially attacked by a “pet” lion being cared for by the soldier’s old wartime friend.

I was hooked. I bought the book, got it signed and finished reading it in a week.

Fuller weaves humorous anecdotes and deep philosophical questions about the nature of humanity into this book about “K,” a former Rhodesian soldier returning years later to the battlefields on which he fought. Fuller travels with him desiring to understand the Rhodesian War, which her family supported during her youth in her home country of Zimbabwe.

The book ventures beyond a mere profile and cuts to the core of the K’s humanity daring the reader to see himself in the soldier. K battles his own demons from a racially driven war marked with hate and killing innocents.

Fuller opens herself up in the story, bringing greater intimacy to the book. The journey brings her face-to-face with the haunting ghosts of the war, which live on in K , and as Fuller discovers – in herself.

The book is a timely look at war and its effects on all of us.

“Those of us who grow in war are like clay pots fired in an oven that is overhot,” Fuller wrote in a postlude. “Confusingly shaped like the rest of humanity, we nevertheless contain fatal cracks that we spend the rest of our lives itching to fill. All of us with war-scars will endeavor to find some kind of relief from the constant sting of our incompleteness – drugs, love, alcohol, God, death, truth.”

Also by Alexander Fuller:

  • “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight,” by Alexandra Fuller (2001). After reading “Scribbling the Cat,” I went backwards and read Fuller’s memoir. It is both an ode to the Africa she knew and a critique of the flawed upbringing she experienced in white-ruled Rhodesia at the cusp of a war.