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Stronger than Death Book Trailer

Annalena Tonelli spent 34 years living and working in the Horn of Africa. Somalis loved her, and still talk about her with great affection, still carry on her legacy, still continue her work.

But someone killed her. Why?

Why did she stay so long as a foreigner, in the face of massacres, famine, tuberculosis, terror, and war? How did she build a strong local community across religious and racial boundaries, boundaries that today often divide communities?

This is not the story of a white savior, or is it? It isn’t the story of a saint either, or is it? Annalena was far from perfect but her example challenges us all to be a little braver. A little more loving. A little more willing to reach out to someone with empathy, faith, and action.

       

Available from Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon.

Thanks to Matt Erickson for providing video clips and photographs and to the Plough Publishing video team!

Stronger than Death Endorsements

Here is what some early readers are saying about Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa.

I am blown away by the generosity and kindness of these people who agreed to endorse the book. They are people I respect, admire, am inspired by, and have learned so much from.


Rachel Pieh Jones has given us the unforgettable story of a servant of the sick and poor who demonstrated, to an almost incomprehensible degree, what it means to love the least of these. Few of us will ever come close to Annalena Tonelli’s devotion and bravery. But thanks to this remarkable book, we can be acquainted with one of history’s great and unheralded exemplars, and inspired to give more of ourselves to those without. Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today columnist, author of Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower

A fascinating, powerful and extremely moving true story that needs to be shared with the rest of the world.–Jordan Wylie, author of Citadel and Running For My Life

My life has been shaped by the examples of faith heroes: Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. In this book, Rachel Pieh Jones introduces me to one more – Annalena Tonelli. Her example of immersive, selfless service combined with learning from different traditions should inspire us all.–Eboo Patel, author of Acts of Faith, founder and president, Interfaith Youth Core

A stunning meditation on love and service, this book has given me a new hero: Annalena Tonelli, a woman of faith who crashed through boundaries and dodged bullets in her mission to heal the sick. Author Rachel Pieh Jones has done justice to an extraordinary person, crafting a story every bit as vivid, relentless, and surprising as her subject. Jason Fagone, national best-selling author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes

A meticulously detailed and empathetic work on a woman whose life should not be forgotten.–Mary Harper, BBC World Service, author Getting Somalia Wrong?

As well as telling a compelling story with great skill, this absorbing and clear-eyed examination of the work of one of East Africa’s greatest humanitarians, based on her letters and interviews with her closest associates, also highlights the cultural challenges faced by even the most dedicated worker. Rachel Pieh Jones raises questions about motive and consequence, as well as perception and jealousy, that resonate well beyond the fascinating life she describes.–Richard Barrett, director of the Global Strategy Network and former director of global counter-terrorism at MI6

Annalena Tonelli’s story challenges readers to believe in themselves and reminds us that we can choose acts of kindness and love even during difficult circumstances. Her courage inspires us to challenge evil: everyone can make a difference.–Mariam Mohamed, former First Lady of Somalia

“Jones explores the life of Italian aid worker Annalena Tonelli in this gripping biography... …Tonelli’s example of humility, asceticism, and loving with abandon will be a revelation…” –Publisher’s Weekly 

 

You can preorder your own copy here. Publication date is October 1, less than one month away!

*post contains affiliate links

 

Stronger than Death, Book Cover Reveal!

I wrote a book.

I’ve actually written many books, from the cloth-covered book about animals running a race I wrote in elementary school, to the several novels that are completed and gathering dust on my hard drives (for very good reasons!), to my self-published books the Djiboutilicious cookbook, Finding Home, and two editions of Welcome to Djibouti.

This coming book has been the work of my heart for almost five years. It is the biography of Annalena Tonelli, a woman who faced disease, terrorism, massacres, lonely isolation, and chose love over fear.

“People would call her a doctor, a missionary, and a nun. And they would call her a saint… Should Annalena be made into a saint? That was how I thought of her, at first. I only knew the high points in Annalena’s life. I knew nothing of the dark valleys, her secret and controversial compromise. I knew she had accomplished something remarkable, something about tuberculosis but also about love and faith…”

It is the product of collaboration with Matt Erickson, so many people I interviewed all over the world, those I followed and pestered, and the Plough Publishing team.

A few months ago I shared the book cover in my Stories from the Horn newsletter.

Now, I want to share the cover here, too.

You may have already seen it, if you’ve visited the Plough, Indiebound, or Amazon, but let’s make this the formal “cover reveal”.

Are cover reveal parties a thing? Like for pregnant moms and gender reveal parties? I feel like they should be, with balloons and a cake a fireworks. Well…oh well.

There is so much I want to tell you about the book, like who endorsed it and some behind the scenes stuff. Like how I’ve been changed through this project. Like how it feels to write a book while dealing with cancer. Like all the ways this book connects to current issues from Ebola to cross cultural relationships and humanitarian aid, to conquering fear and talking about race and faith. I love the way this woman turns these conversations upside down in surprising, even shocking ways.

But for now, here’s the cover! No drama, no explosions, no band playing in the background. Just me and my excited little heart.

(Number 1 new release in Kenyan History!)

You can preorder it here

Plough

Amazon

Indiebound

What could be stronger than death? Only a love bigger than fear and bigger than hate. We need this message more than ever.

Unlikely Marathoners (and, Women Run Without Dropping a Uterus!)

Quick link: The Most Unlikely Marathoners

*photo by Mustafa Said

HARGEISA, SOMALILAND— A cement wall topped with barbed wire surrounds the soccer field where girls gather once a week to play. Boys climb trees or scramble up the wall to peer inside and armed guards chase them away. Here, girls can run.

Across town is a basketball court, not quite regulation-size, also inside a protective wall with a locked front gate. About a dozen girls, most of whom have never played basketball before, are learning ball-handling skills and how to shoot. Here, too, girls can run.

A women-only fitness center downtown has treadmills, but most girls can’t afford the time or money to join, and the hours are limited. For those who can run here, the treadmills are wired to shut down after 15 minutes, to protect the women from injuring themselves.

Female Somali athletes have yet to make any kind of splash in the international running scene. Mo Farah, a Somalia-born Brit, is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and the most well-known Somali runner. Ayanleh Souleiman, a Somali from Djibouti, is one of the best active middle-distance runner in the world. Mumin Guelleh, another Somali Djiboutian, placed 12th in his first-ever marathon at the Rio Olympics.

But the most famous Somali runner on the women’s side is probably Samia Yusuf Omar, who is known more for her death than for her life. She competed in the 400 meters in the 2008 Olympics then, in 2012, worked her way from Mogadishu to Djibouti, then across northern Africa. She boarded a boat, hoping to reach Europe and a life where she could live without fear of being shot by terrorists. On the way, the boat capsized and Samia drowned. She was 21 years old…”

Click here to read the rest of the piece, in Deadspin (!!)