The subject of a recent New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof, Shannon details how she left her comfortable life in Portland, Ore., to aid women in the Democratic Republic of Congo suffering abuse and death in what has been termed “Africa's First World War.” Running a successful business with her fiancée (who would leave her), Shannon is still “hungry for something all [her] own” and after seeing a show on Oprah about Congolese women, she establishes the Run for Congo Women to raise money to help those suffering. From meeting Congolese women she's sponsored to learning that 90% of the women in one village have been raped, Shannon is exposed to a world remote from her own affluent life. Her painful firsthand accounts of the violence inflicted upon Congolese women by Hutu militants will most interest readers, but the book lacks a detailed overview of the political circumstances surrounding this long war. Shannon provides a much-needed view of how one inspired American can act with hope, drive, and courage to aid women in a part of the world too often overlooked. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“I can't imagine a more perfect book for arousing the power of American women (or women and men everywhere) to rush to the defense of our Congolese sisters. Lisa Shannon, runner extraordinaire, has with this forthright and readable book, crossed the finish line into the way of life the remainder of our time on this planet demands: she has entered the land of courage, compassion, and a fierce determination to stand by those who need us, where everyone understands they must beour lives depend on ita citizen of the world.
“While reporting for the Oprah Show , I called the Democratic Republic of the Congo the ‘worst place on earth.’ When Lisa Shannon saw my report, rather than turn her back, she took it on. Her commitment to the victims of one of the world's greatest tragedies exemplifies the best in humanity. Her powerful story is an inspiration to all of those who think their voice is too small to change lives.”
—Lisa Ling, journalist
"Congo is usually portrayed as hopeless and its women as victims. Lisa Shannon shines a spotlight on the hope that emanates so stubbornly from this complex country, primarily through her loving portrayal of her Congolese sisters. Instead of victims, these women are determined survivors, three-dimensional human beings who deserve our respect and solidarity."
—John Prendergast, co-founder of The Enough Project, and co-author of Not On Our Watch with Don Cheadle
“As global consumers we all share some responsibility for the tragedy in the Congo. Lisa Shannon's riveting, personal narrative lays bare the human cost of that relationship, through a personal journey like no other into the heart of the Congo.”
—Robin Wright, actress and activist
“I wish that every woman and man in America were as stirred to outrage and action as Lisa Shannon by what is happening in today’s Congo. In her heartfelt and very personal way, she shines some light on a place of great suffering that the world has too long ignored.”
—Adam Hochschild, author, iKing Leopold’s Ghost and iBury the Chains
Unable to grieve the death of her father but unwilling to admit depression, photographer Shannon spent her time numbly watching television. Then an episode of Oprah changed her life. A report on "the worst place on Earth to be a woman"—the Congo—awakened her from emotional sleep. She writes here of taking action, forming the Run for Congo Women foundation, which began as a one-woman effort yet eventually grew into a national organization, with races taking place across the United States. Shannon left behind her comfortable life in Portland, OR, to visit the Congo and the sponsored women whom she calls her "sisters." She is admirably honest about her travels there, a place consumed by instability and violence, with an overwhelming need for assistance. The sponsored women all ask for more money, the children are often jaded after hearing so many promises of help from outsiders, and the personal testimonies of violence are so abundant that they seem to run together. Yet Shannon is able to see the good that has been done by Run for Congo Women and encourages others to support their own Congolese "sisters." VERDICT A worthwhile read for those with a nagging feeling that there is something more that they can do for those in need.—Veronica Arellano, Lexington Park, MD
The story of one woman's call to ease the atrocious human suffering in the Congo. Settling in Portland, Ore., in her late 20s, photographer Shannon thought her life was in place. Everything shifted, however, when she learned of the war and unthinkable tragedies taking place in the Congo, a conflict borne out of the Rwandan genocide that had become muted in the international community. Already running from her father's death, she decided to run 30 miles and raise 30 sponsorships for Congolese women through Women for Women, an international NGO for female survivors of war. Hoping to spark a movement, she created a foundation called Run for Congo Women and traveled through the country to meet the women she helped sponsor. Shannon presents images of the uncensored horror stories that, to many Congolese, have become regrettably routine: Congo's vile colonial history and the Rwandan genocide spillover that has caused the murders of more than five million Congolese people; children forced to kill and rape in their own communities; daily child deaths from easily curable illnesses; grisly murders of men and children in front of their wives and mothers; families burned alive inside their homes; women who must choose between rape and watching their children starve. The author writes from a place of determination and clarity, despair and breakdown, overwhelming love and hope. Juxtaposing brutality with beauty, Shannon's direct prose is a stirring reminder that these horrors are real and ongoing. An alarming and inspiring message that will hopefully spur much-needed action. Agent: Jill Marsal/Marsal Lyon Literary Agency