Reviews of Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede

Find Me Unafraid

Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum

by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner

Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner X
Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 352 pages

    Jul 2016, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Book Summary

Find Me Unafraid tells the uncommon love story between two uncommon people whose collaboration sparked a successful movement to transform the lives of vulnerable girls and the urban poor. With a Foreword by Nicholas Kristof.

This is the story of two young people from completely different worlds: Kennedy Odede from Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, and Jessica Posner from Denver, Colorado.  Kennedy foraged for food, lived on the street, and taught himself to read with old newspapers. When an American volunteer gave him the work of Mandela, Garvey, and King, teenaged Kennedy decided he was going to change his life and his community. He bought a soccer ball and started a youth empowerment group he called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Then in 2007, Wesleyan undergraduate Jessica Posner spent a semester abroad in Kenya working with SHOFCO. Breaking all convention, she decided to live in Kibera with Kennedy, and they fell in love.Their connection persisted, and Jessica helped Kennedy to escape political violence and fulfill his lifelong dream of an education, at Wesleyan University.

The alchemy of their remarkable union has drawn the support of community members and celebrities alike - The Clintons, Mia Farrow, and Nicholas Kristof are among their fans - and their work has changed the lives of many of Kibera's most vulnerable population: its girls. Jess and Kennedy founded Kibera's first tuition-free school for girls, a large, bright blue building, which stands as a bastion of hope in what once felt like a hopeless place. But Jessica and Kennedy are just getting started - they have expanded their model to connect essential services like health care, clean water, and economic empowerment programs. They've opened an identical project in Mathare, Kenya's second largest slum, and intend to expand their remarkably successful program for change.

Ultimately this is a love story about a fight against poverty and hopelessness, the transformation made possible by a true love, and the power of young people to have a deep impact on the world. 

This book is published by an imprint of HarperCollins. Members of the HC union have been on strike since mid-Nov, fighting for a living wage. More than 650 authors and literary agents have committed to not submitting books to the company until the strike is resolved. Recent news articles


December 2007

The wall of discarded milk cartons is the only barrier between me and the gunfire outside. On a normal night, the noises of Kibera drift easily through these walls: reggae music, women selling vegetables by candlelight, drunken men shouting insults, dogs barking, a couple making love in their nearby shack. But now Kibera is frozen. The entire slum is holding its breath, praying for this rain of bullets to pass, like any other storm.

I'm shivering under the bed. It's so dark and breathing is difficult. I can feel spiders crawling over my back and rats poking my toes, but I stay still, afraid that any movement will draw the uniformed men. I hear a high-pitched scream, like that of a young girl. The uniformed men are spraying bullets, and they hit anyone or anything unlucky enough to cross their path. I close my eyes and pray that the girl will survive. They didn't come to Kibera for her. They came for me.

I haven't eaten since ...

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With staggering emotional weight and keen awareness of love and humanity even in the darkest places, Find Me Unafraid is a book that tears you apart and puts you back together – over and over again...continued

Full Review (622 words).

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(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Suspenseful and absorbing, this true story of a man and a woman from two different worlds reveals how dramatically circumstances can change.

Kirkus Reviews
A well-wrought, inspiring tale of 'change and justice' in a part of the world where they are often sorely lacking.

Author Blurb Bryan Mealer, co-author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Kennedy Odede's remarkable story of survival, from a glue-huffing street kid to a humble hero to the poor, is sure to inspire the next generation of activists and leaders. Remember his name.

Author Blurb Chelsea Clinton
The past is not predictive, not when there are dreamers and doers, leaders and builders like Kennedy and Jess. Find Me Unafraid is an extraordinary book, courageously honest about their challenges, their victories, their losses and their achingly beautiful love.

Author Blurb Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, President of Liberia
Find Me Unafraid is a bright beacon, an important tale of perseverance, calling for the female leadership Africa needs and must have. Kennedy and Jessica's vision is creating this next generation of women who will lead Kenya, our continent and the world.

Author Blurb Gloria Steinem
Find Me Unafraid tells the story of hundreds of girls flourishing-and by example, bringing their communities along with them - all because Jessica and Kennedy, two people from different lives, believed that every girl matters. This book offers the greatest of all gifts - hope.

Author Blurb Graça Machel, child rights and social justice advocate, co-founder of The Elders
Kennedy and Jessica's life and love story is humbling. It shows the power and beauty of transforming yourself in the course of transforming other people's lives, even in the most challenging circumstances. Their experiences demonstrate the value of working collectively, and prove that meaningful change must begin from the community.

Author Blurb Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Find Me Unafraid is a resounding tale calling for hope in a world that needs it desperately. With guts and determination, [Kennedy and Jessica] have forged a path that the world must follow. This is a rare story, filled with passion and the pursuit of justice and peace.

Author Blurb Lonnie and Muhammad Ali
Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner are true modern day heroes. They've built a beacon of hope that penetrates the deepest recesses of poverty's darkest alleyways.

Author Blurb Mia Farrow
Find Me Unafraid is an astounding story of love, hope, inspiration and triumph. It is a mesmerizing love story; two young people from very different cultures join forces to build a life together - and a new life filled with promise for others. I don't think either of them understand the word 'impossible.'

Author Blurb Senator Cory Booker
Find Me Unafraid is a powerful reminder of an individual's capacity to make a meaningful difference in the world around them. Kennedy and Jessica's inspiring words are a soaring call to action for anyone who has confronted seemingly insurmountable odds - and found hope.

Author Blurb Wanjira Mathai, Chair Greenbelt Movement
Kennedy and Jessica and the work of Shining Hope for Communities bear testimony to the legacy of my mother, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai. Jessica and Kennedy are creating a community of hummingbirds that will create the Kenya, and world, my mother envisioned.

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Map of KiberaKibera, in Nairobi, Kenya, is one of the largest slums in the world; in Africa, it is second only to South Africa's Soweto, with a population of anywhere from 200,000 to over a million depending on who is doing the measuring. Early in Find Me Unafraid, Jessica Posner writes:

In Kibera, hundreds of thousands of houses made from sheets of corrugated metal and other recycled materials are piled nearly on top of another. Garbage-lined paths thread the neighborhood instead of roads, and the terrain consists of hilly slopes and steep inclines that without paving are uneven, making it difficult to maintain balance. With its own markets and shops, Kibera is almost a city unto itself, except that inside of the slum there are no government ...

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