Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." - Anne Frank

That's a bonus quote because I'd intended to write this post earlier, but as usual, my best intentions are uh...only intentions. Nonetheless, I have been combing the blogosphere evangelizing about this book to anybody who will listen because I think it's a book that everybody should read. Daoud Hari's The Translator was a great book about what's going on in Darfur. In my humble opinion, Halima Bashir's Tears of the Desert is better. Please read one or both of these books, especially if you don't know much about what the world continues to allow to happen in Darfur despite promises of "Never again."

When Halima Bashir leaves her small, isolated Zaghawa village for school in a neighboring larger town, it doesn't take her long to figure out what she wants to do with her education. Bashir dreams of being a medical doctor who can return to her village and help her people. Despite growing tensions and racial discrimination between the majority black Africans and minority Arabs of Sudan, Bashir's intelligence and hard work combined with her father's love and support enable her to follow her dream to university in Khartoum. After attaining her degree, she returns to her village and to the town where she originally attended school where she serves as a trainee doctor, but life as she knew it is already changing.

Rumors are afoot of deadly groups of Arabs fighting a "Holy War" against black African "infidels," and as Halima helps to treat everyone regardless of color or creed who arrives at the accident and emergency ward of the hospital, the growing danger and atrocity become all too apparent. When she dares to speak out to a newspaper reporter about the things that she sees even in the most vague terms, beating and interrogation soon follow. But it is not until she is assigned to head a clinic in another remote village that the truly dire circumstances of the violence the Arabs are unleashing in Darfur really begin to reveal themselves.

I can't say enough about Tears of the Desert. After the first chapter, I was entirely taken in, basking in Bashir's rich early memories of her family, her village, and her childhood. Each of her relatives and friends is so well described and her love for them so obvious that it almost feels like knowing them personally. Bashir's tales of growing up paint her as an outspoken smart and strong girl who won't accept anything less than her due who reaches adulthood as a smart, strong, and stunningly courageous woman determined to help her people and her homeland despite great personal risk.

One could hardly expect a book about such a difficult topic to be so compulsively readable, but this one is. Make no mistake, parts of this book are gut-wrenchingly difficult to read, but Bashir's honesty and unflinching attention to detail is entirely necessary. Bashir's is a powerful and an important tale and is fully equipped to be a significant part of showing people what is going on in Sudan and motivating people around the world to do their part to stop it.

When I finished it, I was definitely fired up to take some action against what's happening in Sudan, and I certainly hope books like Tears of the Desert and The Translator will inspire many others to do likewise. If you want to get involved, you can. For starters, buy this book. You'll get to read a great book and Part of the proceeds the authors earn from it will go toward increasing awareness and helping the refugees forced to flee Darfur. You can also visit Save Darfur and sign their petition or donate. Also, of course, there's still a little more time to get involved with Natasha's month of Reading and Blogging for Darfur where even doing something so small as leaving a comment or two can make a difference, so if you haven't checked out what she's doing yet, please check it out now before September ends!

Interested in reading another review?

Diary of An Eccentric


  1. oh ho. I think I saw the same book at the bookstore today, but I don't know why, but I didn't pick it up. Now I wish I had. You made me feel so terrible.

  2. Better than The Translator? Well, that's very high praise indeed! Right to the top of my wish list Bashir's book goes.

    Thank you for such an insightful review. Books like this make me so angry and yet also inspire me to want to do something about the injustices around me.

    Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

  3. I can't wait to read this! I received an ARC of this book, and it's next on my list. Great review!

  4. Great review, I'll have to keep an eye out for this one.

  5. Thanks for that great review. I'll be buying this one for sure.

    It is great to see so many new novels covering contemporary Muslim society because I think that's the most painless way for an outsider to gain some understanding and insight regarding that social structure.

  6. Hey Megan - you're brainy and overworked, right? Check out this link:

    If you get hired, let me know :)

  7. I just reviewed this book, and I added your link to my review, which is here:

  8. Hey there,

    I bought this book a few days ago and started reading it on the bus on the way back home.

    I'm still in the early chapters of Halima's story. It's so amazing to see how people there lived their lives. As you mentioned, she did a good job in describing her tribe, relatives, and friends in addition to everything in that little village she grew up in.

    There is so much pain and sorrow in Africa, not only in Darfur. Just recently I finished reading a book called "In the Hot Zone" where the reporter goes to Congo, one of the countries he covered in one year of reporting all over the world. The stories of rape and horror are awful. They left me with pain, very close to that I had to go through in my home country Iraq.

  9. Your details of this book are bang on. This was the best book I have ever read, coming from Halima and her point of view. It hit me like a ton of bricks!
    The very sad thing is, is that this book could very easy be an article in a newspaper.... it is a current event that is getting worse ever minute!!

  10. Can I just ask why troups have been sent to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan in the excuse of fighting for human rights when genocide like this is going on in Sudan? If really these powerful governments are fighting for the rights of humans why have they not deployed troups to the north of Sudan to fight for the people who are being killed everyday. Why have they left the Sudanese government in charge when they know all they are doing is trying to get rid of their fellow countrymen because they are black. Now tell me: When Bush met with Halima, did he really understand what she was telling him? Will Obama understand. This is not the time for sympathising. This is the time the so-called Big Nations took a stand and fought - not for oil but for their fellow man's life!
    If you want to fight terrorism fight it in all areas not only places where you can get some kind of treasure from!
    ~I rest my case~

  11. Hardly better than Hari's Translator, but why compare? Bashir brings in ta different perspective to Hari, being a woman.

  12. just read the book and what a book... i can hardly breathe.... so painful and still amazing. what strength she has. it was so awful reading about the attacks in her village and all the other torture. it's a miracle she survived.

    anna g.

  13. yup!bashir's book was one of the most favourite books of mine i purchased and read it really its an heartbreaking story of thug . I am doing M.A project on her really very convenient to do my project . Mainly megan your review helped me alot to seek better analysis in her book

    Thank you,