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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.

Yes, We Know It Is Christmas In Africa

christmas in africa

This Christmas season you may have heard the song “Do They Know Its Christmas?” Originally written by Bob Geldof in 1984 to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief, the song has recently been revived to raise money to fight Ebola in west Africa.

The song came with original lines like: Tonight thank God its them instead of you and where nothing ever grows and no rain or river flows. These have been replaced to be, in Geldof and Band-Aid 30’s hopes, less offensive or ignorant. There are now lines like there is death in every tear and the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.

The song cannot escape the original condescension and racism it espoused (in my opinion, these new lyrics are not a whole lot better). It was then and is now based on ignorance, racism, and a white savior mentality. It promotes an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ idea and does nothing to promote honest understanding, true compassion, or empathy. It sets up Africa as a monolithic mysterious place where everyone is poor and helpless, unaware, and in need of saving.

What I really want to say is that: Yes, we know it is Christmas in Africa.

People in Africa know it is Christmas because there are Christians in Africa and they know and celebrate the story of Jesus’ birth.

Out of every four Christians in the world, one of them lives in Africa. 24% of the world’s Christians live in Africa, which means there are over half a billion Christians on the continent. Of the top 10 countries with the world’s largest Christian population, three of them are in Africa.

Even, wait for it, wait for it…even in Muslim Africa, people know it is Christmas.

Here in Djibouti, a country with a 94% Muslim population, there are Christmas trees for sale, Santa Claus chocolates in grocery stores, Christmas carols played over the sound system in stores, Christmas programs performed by children at school. There are vacation days from work, advertising campaigns urging people to purchase the perfect gift for loved ones. There are glittering lights on lampposts downtown and a real, life-size gingerbread house at the five-star Kempinski Hotel.

These people know it is Christmas. And though I’m not Djiboutian, for now as an expatriate into my second decade in Djibouti, I’m one of them. We know it is Christmas.

One of my best Somali friends, a devout Muslim, gives me Christmas gifts. One year it was an 8×10 framed photo of my infant daughter. Another year, another Somali friend who is also a devout Muslim, pretended to be Santa Claus and delivered new material to be sewn into covers for my local-style cushions. My kids invite Muslim friends to our house to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want and their parents laugh and take photos. On Christmas Day we bring part of our feast to our Muslim neighbors.

Just like they do on their Muslim feasts. Every Eid holiday we receive plates filled with grilled goat and rice dyed green, pink, and blue. Every Eid holiday our friends wish us a happy holiday and they wish us a happy holiday again on Christmas.

This is not ISIS, Muslims killing Christians. It isn’t Band-Aid 30, rich white westerners saving a dark continent filled with nameless poor and ignorant heathen. It is real people in real relationship, respecting and honoring each other across differences.

This is Christmas in Africa. Okay, actually, it is Christmas in Djibouti. But I’ve also celebrated Christmas in Kenya and have friends who celebrate in Burundi and in Somalia and in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Congo…This is a global holiday and whether or not we believe in Jesus, we are all wishing for peace on earth, for freedom for the captive, justice for the oppressed, healing from disease.

Raising money to fight disease is an excellent thing. Diarrhea kills more people than ebola. Thousands and thousands more. I wonder who will sing a song about diarrhea? Or about worms, which keep more children out of school than almost any other issue across the developing world. And how about using local artists, engaging with local initiatives, or being accurate in the stories we tell and the songs we sing? Here are some suggestions for how we can maybe do a little bit better:

What is wrong with Band-Aid 30’s song

Africans respond to Geldof’s song

How to think about Ebola in Africa

Where is Band-Aid 30’s money going? Hard to say.

Donate instead to Doctor’s Without Borders, like Adele did.

An Anti-Love Song to Ebola by African artists

*image via pixabay

Ebola and Africa, Fear and Risk

Quick link: No, My Family’s Not Leaving Africa Because of Ebola

Ebola is really terrible and Africa is really big and, unfortunately, I need to say this again: Africa is not a country.

Today I’m writing at Babble about Ebola and living with my family on the continent where Ebola is. It is not in our country of residence. Ebola is really serious and I don’t want to skirt around that. There are also huge and horrifying future possibilities if the disease spreads. Many nations, Djibouti included, are likely not prepared for a full-fledged outbreak. Health workers and politicians and average citizens need to take this seriously, to react appropriately, and to make wise decisions.

ebola

At the same time, being asked if we are leaving Djibouti because of Ebola (to return to a country with eight confirmed cases total) sort of sits wrong with me. It seems based on the assumption that when/if things were hard, we should leave. But this isn’t a vacation easily abandoned, this is our life. Our real, real life. Plus, we don’t make choices based on fear, or we try not to. We might make them based on a reasonable assessment of risk, but at this point there is no need to do so.

Or when I read a story that in Texas a Nigerian man is denied entrance into a college because he is from Nigeria and they aren’t allowing students from countries with Ebola*…that bothers me. Or some of the incredibly ignorant way people are talking about Africa –  a Fox news reporter talked about how the world needs to worry because Africans go to witch doctors. Laura Ingraham apparently thinks that the reason Obama hasn’t instituted a flight ban (which most professionals think will be ineffective anyway) is because of his familial connections to the continent. One former GOP official suggested we just kill everyone who has Ebola, stop the spread that way. Do I even need to comment on the deeply offensive, ignorant, racist, and just plain stupidity of these types of comments?

On the other end of the spectrum, I recently received a message from a friend in Minnesota, before this essay at Babble even came out, and she demonstrated exactly what I encourage people to do. She had done due diligence and found out how far we live from Ebola-affected countries and acknowledged that we are far away. And then she asked if we were doing okay, if we needed anything, specifically prayer support. Her message was compassionate, sincere, not fear-mongering, and a real encouragement to me.

May God have mercy, may Ebola be stopped in its tracks, and may we all live with wisdom, compassion, courage, and faith when things get hard.

*in the days since I sent this to be published, two countries have been declared Ebola free. Two African countries. Nigeria and Senegal. Maybe the US could learn a thing or two from them.

Click here to read more of my thoughts about Ebola: No, My Family’s Not Leaving Africa Because of Ebola

*image via Flickr

By |October 22nd, 2014|Categories: africa|Tags: , |7 Comments