Summary and book reviews of A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo

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
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2, 2018, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis

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About this Book

Book Summary

In the tradition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, this is a masterful, humane work of literary journalism by New Yorker staff writer Alexis Okeowo - a vivid narrative of Africans who are courageously resisting their continent's wave of fundamentalism.

In A Moonless, Starless Sky Okeowo weaves together four narratives that form a powerful tapestry of modern Africa: a young couple, kidnap victims of Joseph Kony's LRA; a Mauritanian waging a lonely campaign against modern-day slavery; a women's basketball team flourishing amid war-torn Somalia; and a vigilante who takes up arms against the extremist group Boko Haram. This debut book by one of America's most acclaimed young journalists illuminates the inner lives of ordinary people doing the extraordinary - lives that are too often hidden, underreported, or ignored by the rest of the world.

Preface

I didn't plan on becoming obsessed with Africa. But ever since taking a ten-month internship at a newspaper in Uganda after college, I have returned to the fascinating, unpredictable, and maddening continent again and again to report stories. Before moving to Uganda at the age of twenty-two, I had traveled to Africa just once: In elementary school, my Nigerian parents took my brothers and me to their country of birth for Christmas, and we shyly and awkwardly united with dozens of relatives we had never met. My parents had both ended up as college students in Alabama, where I grew up. We had all the comforts of Nigerian food, art, and music in my childhood home, but I didn't have a great interest in Africa. I was drawn more to the prospects of adventure.

I traversed Uganda, flying in tiny planes to the remote, arid northeast and the border with Sudan, and bungee jumping over the Nile River, all the while trying to figure out my relationship to its inhabitants. ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa is an ambitious and successful account of current affairs in Uganda, Nigeria, Mauritania, and Somalia, brimming with keen human-interest stories. Alexis Okeowo, who writes for The New Yorker, is a powerful storyteller with a journalist's instinct for detail and a humanitarian's dedication. She is fearless in pursuit of true and nuanced moments. Here, she profiles ordinary people rising to heroic actions while confronting danger in their communities. In particular, much of this book is a solid attempt to record the history and lives of those whose stories have never been told.   (Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Full Review Members Only (721 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this memorable debut, Okeowo's in-depth, perceptive reporting gives a voice to the extraordinarily courageous - and resilient - women and men fighting malevolent ideologies and organizations in their native countries.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Cleareyed, lyrical, observant, and compassionate - reportage at its finest.

Author Blurb Alexandra Fuller, New York Times bestselling author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Quiet Until the Thaw
Finally, finally, finally - a humane, skillful storyteller with sound reporting instincts has dug into the middle of the stories we think we've already heard out of Africa. Alexis Okeowo can write prose as arresting as Ryszard Kapuscinski's, she's got Katherine Boo's big heart, but she has her own fresh way of approaching the work, one that is terribly overdue. Absolutely essential reading, period.

Author Blurb Adam Hochschild, New York Times bestselling author of King Leopold's Ghost and Spain in Our Hearts
From an abolitionist who once owned a slave to women basketball players in a war zone, Alexis Okeowo has an alert and thoughtful eye for the unexpected. The portraits and voices she brings us from Africa are so vivid that the reader can easily forget the determination and bravery it must have taken to gather them in these unhappy corners of the continent.

Author Blurb Howard W. French, author of Everything Under the Heavens
In A Moonless, Starless Sky, Alexis Okeowo has wandered as a reporter into some of Africa's most difficult and dangerous corners and delivered something remarkable: real characters, women and men, fully rendered.

Author Blurb William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Barbarian Days
Spectacular reporting. Full of fresh, unexpected detail. If you want to get an immediate sense of the lives, both quotidian and extraordinary, of Africans in some of the continent's most troubled countries, read Alexis Okeowo's book.

Author Blurb Dexter Filkins, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Forever War
Alexis Okeowo has gone to the hardest continent and come away with a series of tales about the fight against fanaticism and despair. The result is a deeply sensitive portrait of modern Africa and a microscope on the human condition in the most difficult circumstances.

Author Blurb Hilton Als, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of White Girls
Alexis Okeowo's startling and brilliant account of fierce horrors and tender hopes is one of the best records I have ever read of a world that has been made and remade time and again out of struggle and faith. Okeowo is just the kind of reporter we need to hear from when it comes to Africa, the 'new' old world: truthful, accurate, deep.

Reader Reviews

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Mauritania

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 ...

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