Walking with Abel: Book summary and reviews of Walking with Abel by Anna Badkhen

Walking with Abel

Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah

by Anna Badkhen

Walking with Abel by Anna Badkhen
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2015
    320 pages
    Genre: Travel & Adventure

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Book Summary

An intrepid journalist joins the planet's largest group of nomads on an annual migration that, like them, has endured for centuries.

Anna Badkhen has forged a career chronicling life in extremis around the world, from war-torn Afghanistan to the border regions of the American Southwest. In Walking with Abel, she embeds herself with a family of Fulani cowboys - nomadic herders in Mali's Sahel grasslands - as they embark on their annual migration across the savanna. It's a cycle that connects the Fulani to their past even as their present is increasingly under threat - from Islamic militants, climate change, and the ever-encroaching urbanization that lures away their young. The Fulani, though, are no strangers to uncertainty - brilliantly resourceful and resilient, they've contended with famines, droughts, and wars for centuries.

Dubbed "Anna Ba" by the nomads, who embrace her as one of theirs, Badkhen narrates the Fulani's journeys and her own with compassion and keen observation, transporting us from the Neolithic Sahara crisscrossed by rivers and abundant with wildlife to obelisk forests where the Fulani's Stone Age ancestors painted tributes to cattle. As they cross the Sahel, the savanna belt that stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, they accompany themselves with Fulani music they download to their cell phones and tales of herders and hustlers, griots and holy men, infused with the myths the Fulani tell themselves to ground their past, make sense of their identity, and safeguard their - our - future.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Lyrical … Badkhen combines journalistic observation with deep feeling…The Fulani are individuals, not archetypes. Their journey is both beautiful and difficult… tenderly render[ed]…[and] exquisitely written." - Publisher's Weekly

"[Badken] mak[es] Fulani culture come alive as she follows the herders' daily efforts to cope with drought, disease, and death in an often unforgiving landscape." - Library Journal

"Readers with hectic lives may find the pace a bit slow, but the poetry in Badkhen's prose demands that readers slow down and savor her gentle, elegant story." - Kirkus

"[D]isplays the skill of a writer accustomed to telling the stories of those living unimaginable lives." - Ms. Magazine

"Walking with Abel is a rare and extraordinary book. Anna Badkhen writes with so much precision and soul that practically every line delivers its own revelation. This intrepid writer has given us more than a window into an ancient, and possibly doomed, way of life; she digs down to the very core of what it means to be human." - Ben Fountain, author, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award and finalist for the National Book Award

"Lucid, generous, and rugged, Badkhen has written a magisterial book which speaks to us as a species in the early twenty-first century - where have we walked from and where are we walking." - J.M. Ledgard, author of Submergence

"Sumptuously narrated, Badkhen's sojourn compels you to ponder the existential centers of life - love and loss, loyalty and betrayal, courage and fear.  At the end of this riveting tale, the reader not only knows something about the fascinating particularities of Fulani being-in-the-world, but is also inspired by the indomitable resilience of the human spirit." - Paul Stoller, author of Yaya's Story: The Quest for Well-Being in the World

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Anna Badkhen has written about wars on four continents, including the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Chechnya. Her reporting has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. Her most recent book is The World Is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village. Badkhen lives in Philadelphia.

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