A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman by Lisa J. Shannon, foreword by Zainab Salbi
Can anyone really understand such a number: 5,400,000. The death of a single loved one can leave you staggering and lost … how can anyone even fathom 5.4 million human beings who have been murdered in a single country … since 1998!
Lisa Shannon, a Portland art director, lived a contented life in her cozy Victorian home with her charming partner in both business and life. Yet when her father dies, she’s paralyzed and can’t even drag herself off the couch, relying on Oprah for company. Then on January 24, 2005, a 20-minute segment highlighting the ongoing violence against women in the Congo catapults Shannon to the other side of the world.
“I have to do it now, before it becomes one more thing I meant to do.” So Shannon joins 6,000 Oprah viewers and sponsors two Congolese women. Then she starts running: 30.16 miles to raise 31 more sponsorships through Women for Women International (whose legendary founder, Zainab Salbi, writes the Foreword here). Her first time out, she raises $28,000, enough to change the lives of 80 Congolese women and their children.
She takes her runs on the road, organized as the Run for Congo Women (runs are happening regularly). And in 2007 she arrives in the Congo … where she will meet the most unforgettable women, each survivors of unimaginable atrocities and tragedies. These are her thousand sisters (and more) by whom she will be changed forever though laughter, tears, desperation, anger, gratitude, and finally furaha – joy. Amidst the horror, furaha sana – “so much joy.”
I read A Thousand Sisters without pause on a long flight that took me away from where most of the book happens – Africa. I had started Sisters numerous times while traveling next door to the Congo, but the font size in the paperback version was so tiny as to make my aging eyeballs roll into the back of my head in defeat. Inflight, I found myself extremely thankful for the sharp, focused beam of the personal overhead light … yet another head-thunking reminder of the choices I have, the privileges I’ve been granted, mostly because the random circumstance of my birth far away from ‘the worst place on earth to be a woman.’
Now that I know, now that you know … what will we do? Shannon is certainly prepared … two of the final pages, entitled “Find Your Own Furaha,” gives you seven immediate actions “you can do for the Congo right now.” All you have to do to get started is open to page 1 …