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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