Children Are Diamonds: An African Apocalypse

Children Are Diamonds: An African Apocalypse

by Edward Hoagland
     
 

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This is not the Africa of Isak Dinesen, nor the Africa of Joy Adamson. This is the Africa of civil wars and tribal massacres, where the Lord’s Resistance Army recruits child-soldiers after forcing them to kill their parents and eat their hearts. The aid workers who voluntarily subject themselves to life here are a breed of their own.

Meet Hickey, an

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Overview

This is not the Africa of Isak Dinesen, nor the Africa of Joy Adamson. This is the Africa of civil wars and tribal massacres, where the Lord’s Resistance Army recruits child-soldiers after forcing them to kill their parents and eat their hearts. The aid workers who voluntarily subject themselves to life here are a breed of their own.

Meet Hickey, an American school teacher in his late thirties, an American school teacher who burns his bridges with the school board and goes to Africa as an aid worker. Working for an agency in Nairobi, one of his jobs is to drive food and medical supplies to Southern Sudan to an aid station run by Ruth, a middle-aged woman, who acts as nurse, doctor, hospice worker, feeder of starving children, and witness. Ruth is gruff but efficient, and Hickey, who is usually drawn to youth and beauty, is struck by her devotion. Returning to Nairobi, he can’t forget what he has seen.

When the violence and chaos in the region increase to a fever pitch and aid workers are being slaughtered or evacuated, Hickey is asked to save Ruth overland by Jeep. What happens to them and the children that have joined their journey is the searing climax of this novel. Hoagland paints an unflinching portrait of a living hell at its worst, and yet amid that suffering there is hope in the form of humility, sacrifice, and life-affirming friendship.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Joshua Hammer
Hoagland's terrifying and powerful new novel…is the latest addition to a remarkable collection of books about the war in southern Sudan, including Aidan Hartley's Zanzibar Chest, Deborah Scroggins's Emma's War and Dave Eggers's What Is the What. Like them, Hoagland's novel evokes the time and place with haunting imagery…Hoagland aptly captures the lives of Western do-gooders and opportunists lured by the adrenaline rush of Africa, evoking the closeness, and the randomness, of death in a war zone.
The New York Times
Children Are Diamonds is the latest addition to a remarkable collection of books about the war in southern Sudan that evokes the time and place with haunting imagery. Hoagland aptly captures the lives of Western do-gooders and opportunists lured by the adrenaline rush of Africa, evoking the closeness, and the randomness, of death in a war zone.”
John Irving
“Edward Hoagland has long been both a resolute explorer and a preternaturally versatile writer. He’s written more nonfiction than fiction, but what he brings to this terrifying novel—I mean, in addition to his humane vision and exquisite craft—is everything he has learned (as Graham Greene learned) from the world. The range and depth of Hoagland’s travel books, and of his many remarkable essays, are on display in this novel set in Africa, where killing and sexual brutality are juxtaposed with humanitarian care. Hoagland’s aid workers are damaged souls, but they haven’t quit. In a world of unbearable inhumanity, what comes across in this intrepid novel is the power of doing the right thing—even, or especially, in a moral outback.”
Garrison Keillor
“A gritty cinematic story wrapped in brilliant African detail, mesmerizing, from the unforgettable opening scene, on to the end. Quite simply, a masterpiece.”
Booklist
“The ferocious lucidity of Hoagland’s language and the depth of his characters as they navigate political complexity, hellish violence, endless fear, persistent desire, and desperate calculations of survival make for a shattering tale of epic suffering, bitter irony, and miraculous flashes of beauty.”
Kirkus Reviews
A vision of contemporary Africa almost as horrifying as Conrad's in Heart of Darkness, with violence flaring in all directions--toward children, toward Africans and toward NGO workers engaged in humanitarian works. Hickey, the narrator, is a self-described "guide, ne'er-do-well [and] aid worker" who tries to make some sense of the chaotic and war-torn land of Central Africa. In his peripatetic travels, he meets up with Ruth, who's working with Protestants Against Famine, a group operating in southern Sudan on a shoestring budget and with the shadow of hope. Hickey is haunted by the blunt and no-nonsense manner of Ruth and by the searing honesty of her vision. While on one level she realizes that the problems she faces are immense and perhaps even insoluble, on another, she wants to do everything she can to relieve the suffering of even one child. Hickey had been in danger of turning defiantly cynical, but his encounter with Ruth is strangely life-affirming. Traveling from one beleaguered compound to another, Ruth dispenses medicine and operates outside the more reputable borders of aid organizations such as OxFam. (She even cavalierly calls Protestants Against Famine a "rinky-dink" operation.) Both Hickey and Ruth get caught up in the crossfire of tribal warfare, and both try desperately to save the lives of those they've befriended, like Bol, a native who speaks multiple languages, and children, the most innocent victims of the violence. Ultimately, although the carnage is terrifying in Hoagland's graphic descriptions, both Hickey and Ruth survive to continue their desperate work Hoagland's style is dense and tightly packed, each sentence weighted with significance, which makes the carnage and heartbreak he dramatizes all the more powerful.
From the Publisher

“The ferocious lucidity of Hoagland’s language and the depth of his characters as they navigate political complexity, hellish violence, endless fear, persistent desire, and desperate calculations of survival make for a shattering tale of epic suffering, bitter irony, and miraculous flashes of beauty.”—Booklist

“A gritty cinematic story wrapped in brilliant African detail, mesmerizing, from the unforgettable opening scene, on to the end. Quite simply, a masterpiece.”—Garrison Keillor

“Edward Hoagland has long been both a resolute explorer and a preternaturally versatile writer. He’s written more nonfiction than fiction, but what he brings to this terrifying novel—I mean, in addition to his humane vision and exquisite craft—is everything he has learned (as Graham Greene learned) from the world. The range and depth of Hoagland’s travel books, and of his many remarkable essays, are on display in this novel set in Africa, where killing and sexual brutality are juxtaposed with humanitarian care. Hoagland’s aid workers are damaged souls, but they haven’t quit. In a world of unbearable inhumanity, what comes across in this intrepid novel is the power of doing the right thing—even, or especially, in a moral outback.”—John Irving

Children Are Diamonds is the latest addition to a remarkable collection of books about the war in southern Sudan that evokes the time and place with haunting imagery. Hoagland aptly captures the lives of Western do-gooders and opportunists lured by the adrenaline rush of Africa, evoking the closeness, and the randomness, of death in a war zone.”—New York Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611458343
Publisher:
Arcade Publishing
Publication date:
06/01/2013
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Edward Hoagland has written more than twenty books, including the travel memoirs Alaskan Travels and African Calliope, the essay collections Walking the Dead Diamond River and The Tugman’s Passage, and the novels Cat Man and Seven Rivers West. He worked in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus while attending Harvard, and later traveled the world writing for a number of national magazines including Harper’s and Esquire. He has received numerous prestigious literary awards, and taught at many American colleges and universities. He is a native New Yorker, who now divides his time between Martha’s Vineyard and Burton, Vermont.

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