Author: Helon Habila
Publisher: Columbia Global Reports
Publication Date: 5th December 2016
Rating: 4/5. Stars
TW: child abduction cw, murder mention cw,
Summary: On April 14, 2014, 276 girls from the Chibok Secondary School in northern Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram, the world’s deadliest terrorist group. Most were never heard from again. Acclaimed Nigerian novelist Helon Habila, who grew up in northern Nigeria, returned to Chibok and gained intimate access to the families of the kidnapped to offer a devastating account of this tragedy that stunned the world. With compassion and deep understanding of historical context, Habila tells the stories of the girls and the anguish of their parents; chronicles the rise of Boko Haram and the Nigerian government’s inept response; and captures the indifference of the media and the international community whose attention has moved on.
Employing a fiction writer’s sensibility and a journalist’s curiosity, THE CHIBOK GIRLS provides poignant portraits of everyday Nigerians whose lives have been transformed by extremist forces. Habila illuminates the long history of colonialism–and unmasks cultural and religious dynamics–that gave rise to the conflicts that have ravaged the region to this day.
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Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Chibok is a poor town in Nigeria. Most of it’s population depends on agriculture and until the 14th April 2014 life was fairly uneventful. But on that day a kidnapping done by Boko Haram changed this town for good. 276 schoolgirls were abducted, less than 50 managed to escape from the vehicles while they were being transported, only one was saved later on. The town is still in lock down and heavily guarded. The families still grieve for their lost children.
Helon Habila traveled to Chibok to talk about what happens there. He explains the current situation in Chibok, the roadblocks, the life in a locked down town, the abhorrent way women who managed to flee from Boko Haram are treated, the parent’s suffering, the politicians’s inactivity (Goodluck Jonathan, the president, actually believe the kidnapping to be a rumor to sabotage the World Economic Forum that was supposed to be hosted in the following month and so no action was taken to rescue the girls).
All of this is told in a non-emotive journalistic style which makes it all the more impressive and shocking. There is also a lot of information on Boko Haram and how this Terrorist Group came into existence, the corruption in the government that helps them to thrive, the history of Nigeria and it’s bloody rebellions. Unfortunately there has been no new information on the Chibok girls and there is still no hope for them or their families.
The most impressive part of the book were surely the accounts of their families, the interviews with parents and the huge focus on how the fared. Most of them felt abandoned by their government and as if everybody has given up on their daughters. Even for the few girls that managed to make their way to America, their problems are not over. Many of them can’t keep up in school, whereas others are sold to the government by their parents and subsequently send back to Nigeria.
This was definitely well written and the journalistic factual style managed to show how tragic that event was (and still is) without becoming overly depressing. However the book doesn’t really focus on the girls that much and so the title was kind of misleading, but as there is no real new information about them and the identities of the few girls that did manage to escape has to be protected, it was okay. This book gave me a deeper understanding of what happened and is still happening in Chibok.