MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Mauritania: Background information when reading A Moonless, Starless Sky

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Moonless, Starless Sky

Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa

by Alexis Okeowo

A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo X
A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2018, 256 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
Buy This Book

About this Book

Mauritania

This article relates to A Moonless, Starless Sky

Print Review

Map of MauritaniaIn A Moonless, Starless Sky, author Alexis Okeowo profiles, among other heroes, anti-slavery crusader Biram Dah Abeid, who is a citizen of Mauritania.

This West African nation has a rich cultural history. Early settlements include Berber herders (an ethnic group indigeneous to Northern Africa) around the 3rd Century B.C., followed by waves of Arabic Moors, an ethnic group who created the Arab Andalusian civilization and introduced Islam to the region around the year 1000. Colonized by France in 1904, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960 and holds a seat at the United Nations. Since its independence, the government has experienced a series of coups d'états, but voters elected President Abdel Azziz in 2014. (Biram ran unsuccessfully against him, with plans to run again in 2019.)

Biram Dah AbeidToday, the official religion is Sunni Islam, and blasphemy is punishable by the death penalty. The official language is (a regional version of) Arabic, with French and English also spoken in business circles. There are several other recognized languages, reflecting the historically diverse linguistic and tribal settlement patterns.

As detailed in A Moonless, Starless Sky, approximately 40% of Haratin people (also known as black Moors) have traditionally been born into slavery (as were Biram's grandparents). Slaveholders are white Moors who comprise about 30% of the total population. Despite changes to Mauritanian laws, slavery still exists. Some estimates place the percentage of enslaved and trafficked people higher than 4% – earning Mauritania one of the lowest scores for global human rights.

Moorish FamilyMauritania shares borders with Algeria, Senegal, Western Sahara (a territory disputed with Morocco) and a long eastern border with Mali. Since 2012, more than 50,000 refugees from Mali have settled in the eastern section of the country. This influx of refugees, along with terrorist groups active in Mali and other parts of the region, are cause for continuing unrest. With a land area the size of Texas and New Mexico combined, Mauritania's total population is about 4.3 million. Of these, about 30% are estimated to belong to one of the minority groups, living in rural – mostly desert – areas, subsisting as farmers and herders.

Mauritania has a long coastline, but is not considered a tourist destination, as many nations have flagged Mauritania with travel alerts, due to threats of terrorism, kidnapping, and banditry. American, Canadian and British consulates advise against any non-essential travel, especially to the desert areas along the borders with Algeria and Mali. Diplomatic personnel are restricted to the capital city Nouakchott, where Biram and about half of the nation's citizens reside.

MaloumaMauritanian singer-songwriter Malouma Mint El Meidah (known popularly as Malouma) is famous on the world music stage. Her lyrics are in Arabic, Wolof, French, and other languages. She grew up in a griot family – a family of traditional poets and musicians – and her fusion of traditional and contemporary music raises awareness about AIDS, literacy, and women's rights. Malouma's work was repressed for about a decade; then she was elected to a senate seat in 2007 and continues to perform internationally as well as serve as a senator. She has won international prizes for music and humanitarian work.

Journalists like Alexis Okeowo who dare to visit this volatile region in order to report stories like Biram's and others' are to be applauded for sharing the complex and dynamic trends developing in the region. Perhaps some day in the not-too-distant future, Mauritania will become known on the world stage for better human rights. Maybe the upcoming generation of Mauritanians will share their own stories, as Malouma does – through literature, film, art, music, and other emblems of liberty.

Map of Mauritania
Biram Dah Abeid, courtesy of unpo.org
A Moorish Family in the Adrar Plateau
Malouma, courtesy of www.bbc.co.uk

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Karen Lewis

This "beyond the book article" relates to A Moonless, Starless Sky. It originally ran in October 2017 and has been updated for the October 2018 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for a year or $39 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Master Class
    Master Class
    by Christina Dalcher
    Christina Dalcher's Master Class shows America sleepwalking into a perfectionist eventuality not ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Pronounce Knife
    How to Pronounce Knife
    by Souvankham Thammavongsa
    Many examples of immigrant fiction dedicate a portion of their storytelling to exploring details of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Easy Part of Impossible
    The Easy Part of Impossible
    by Sarah Tomp
    Teenager Ria Williams is a skilled diver. She is on track to compete at the Olympic level, but ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire in Paradise
    Fire in Paradise
    by Alastair Gee , Dani Anguiano
    On November 8, 2018, a fire started in Northern California's Butte County after 50-70 mph winds ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Daughter of the Reich
    by Louise Fein

    A spellbinding story of impossible love set against the backdrop of the Nazi regime.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Prisoner's Wife
    by Maggie Brookes

    Inspired by the true story of a courageous young woman who enters a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Paris Hours
by Alex George

One day in the City of Light. One night in search of lost time.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The House on Fripp Island

The House on Fripp Island
by Rebecca Kauffman

A taut, page-turning novel of secrets and strife.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

B I T T Water

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.