A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman

If you are interested in reading about one woman’s journey as she became involved in issues on the other side of the globe, then I do recommend this book.

If you are interested in finding out more about what’s happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I only partially recommend this book.  Having already done a lot of reading on Congo, I didn’t find that this book particularly added anything to my depth of knowledge, although the personal stories of the Congolese women were very moving. If you’re not already aware of what’s happening in DR Congo, this may be a good entry point for you.

Lisa Shannon first learned about the Congo while she was going through a period of deep depression and watching an episode on Oprah. Moved deeply, viewing that episode started Lisa down a path of personal action and advocacy that led to Lisa’s involvement with Women to Women International and the formation of the Thousand Sisters campaign. Lisa began doing sponsored runs to raise funds for Women to Women International and eventually, with the help of her mother, friends, and many supporters, events named Run for Congo Women in cities across the U.S. have raised more than $600,000 that has gone towards supporting women in DR Congo.

The book shares her personal journey of involvement, including several journeys into the heart of DR Congo. She is honest about her mistakes and fears, although I did find at times some portions felt a bit self-congratulatory. For me, the strength of the book is in the individual women’s stories that she shares–I simply found myself repeatedly wishing as I read that those women were a greater focus in the book. Perhaps I’m simply too used to reading books like Half the Sky which focus on other people’s stories, not the author’s, and I had a mistaken expectation of what the book would be as I read it. I had to remind myself that it was clearly advertised as one woman’s journey, and that’s what it truly was.

This review is solely of the book itself, and not a judgment on the A Thousand Sisters Campaign, which I encourage you to look into. The campaign emphasizes both action and advocacy, including using your voice with the U.S. government and international community to take steps towards ending violence in Congo. Women for Women International has now taken over management of Run for Congo Women; A Thousand Sisters Campaign is a separate organization.

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman, by Lisa Shannon (Seal Press, 2011).

–Sandy Hasenauer

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Not for Sale–Book Recommendation

“I believe in the power of individuals to change the world…. When you tell yourself that there is nothing that you can do to arrest the global slave trade, you underestimate your own potential and abandon hope for those trapped in captivity.” (Not for Sale, p. 269).

This book has reached “classic” status in my mind–one that anyone who wants to learn more about human trafficking should have on their shelves.

First published in 2007 and updated in 2010 (2007 edition pictured) , Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone, explores human trafficking in Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, and the U.S. Batstone, a professor of Ethics at the University of San Francisco, spent years researching human trafficking and conducted hundreds of interviews as part of the process. But he begins with the very personal experience of having discovered the existence of slavery at a restaurant that he and his wife liked to frequent, right in their hometown. His point? That even if we’re aware of the existence of trafficking we tend to think of it as a “problem over there,” but the reality is that it’s everywhere, even in on our own neighborhoods.

This book focuses not on the statistics but on the stories–stories of those caught up in trafficking, and stories of abolitionists who are working to both save the victims and prevent trafficking in the first place. The stories are intertwined, presenting the stories and perspectives of victims and survivors side-by-side with stories and perspectives from those at work as abolitionists, woven back and forth, providing a more wholistic picture of human trafficking than most books provide.

But Batstone isn’t just about lifting up folks already at work in the field, here. Nope–he wants you. Batstone enthusiastically encourages his readers to get involved, to take action, to become abolitionists. Using his own experience of discovering–to his surprise–what one person could accomplish when faced with injustice, he encourages the rest of us to do the same. “Sometimes it is simply who you are, and not only what you can do, that can make a difference. Truly, the hardest step to take is the first one: the commitment to take action. The ensuing steps have a way of revealing themselves,” (p. 273).

Maybe your first step is reading this book. Or maybe you’ve already read some of the other books we’ve already recommended in this blog or those you’ve found on your own–and your next “first step” is to contact organizations already at work in this area, or to do a presentation on human trafficking at your church, or to write editorials or articles for your local newspaper, or to become an abolitionist wherever you live or traveling abroad. Whatever it is, Batstone encourages you–strongly–to take it. And then the next step will appear, and the next….

Do you have other books you’ve read on trafficking that you’d like us to know about? Mention them in the comments, and provide links. We’re always on the lookout for more resources!

–Sandy Hasenauer

(For those of you reading this blog who happen to be American Baptist, you’ll be interested to know that American Baptist missionary Annie Dieselberg of Nightlight Ministries in Bangkok figures prominently in the first chapter.)