African women stand at a crossroads between traditional culture and modern times. Now you can read their own stories in their own words in what one African reader describes as "an intriguing collection of human experiences in a fantastic yet delicate basket...a cultural keepsake."
What do you do when your education qualifies you for high-level professional work but your culture says you, as a woman, should kneel before men? When sex education stresses how girls should please men - even by making painful changes to their own bodies? Or when your family haggles with your fiance's family over how many cows you are worth?
Similarly, how would you make sense of your life if you spent your childhood sleeping in the bush every night to avoid marauding rebel soldiers? If you were held and tortured in a secret prison on a vague suspicion that you were linked to an enemy of the government? If imported religions tell you to denounce your parents' and grandparents' faith? Or if western-trained doctors can't heal local afflictions but many of your peers dismiss traditional healers as quacks or witchdoctors?
In describing these and other dilemmas, these African women writers will surprise you as they strike a balance between past and future. Their stories will make you laugh and cry, simultaneously demonstrating what makes Africa unique and celebrating what unites people across cultures. Ultimately, their life stories will leave you celebrating the enduring strength of the human spirit.
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About the Author
Christopher Conte is an American journalist who spent fifteen years as a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal before beginning a freelance career. He has traveled extensively throughout Africa, eastern Europe, and Asia, as a consultant for the World Bank's International Finance Group. Conte has also worked as a trainer and mentor to journalists in Uganda, and other locations throughout Africa and Asia.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Crossroads is a compilation of 15 essays written by Ugandan women that discuss a variety of topics: gender roles, societal norms, poverty, education, sexual orientation, Western charitable organizations, religion, and so much more. Profound, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and sometimes disturbing; each essay focuses on different aspects of Ugandan culture and reveals how each woman struggles with, and overcomes, the challenges that she faces with a dignity and grace that seems absent in Western civilization. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Each woman has a voice and each voice has a meaning; they all come together to paint a descriptive and moving picture of Ugandan society. Some of the stories I empathized with and others opened my eyes to a different way of life and thinking. For instance: While I shared one woman's perspectives of Western charities, I did not realize that these charities employed the people that they were helping. My heart broke when one woman revealed that she had been molested by a cousin as a child, and did not realize at first that what he did was wrong. I discovered that the team sports that I grudgingly participated in as a child were considered taboo in Ugandan society; then, once that was overcome, it became a means for men to determine if a woman would be good wife material by Ugandan standards. I was appalled to learn about how one woman feared for her life because of her sexual orientation. My heart went out to her, and I admired her courage and perseverance in the face of extreme discrimination. These are just a few examples of the threads that make up the gorgeous and vibrant tapestry called Crossroads. I do not know what I was expecting, but I was not expecting such an honest and touching collection of essays. I personally think that anyone who can should read this book because it will broaden their world view and help them to gain a deeper understanding of the human rights that we take for granted in Western society.
My minor in college was Women’s Studies, so I’ve read a lot of books similar to this one. Stories of women all over the world; their hardships, as well as the joys in their lives. This one has resonated more with me than many of those I read in college though. It may be because I wasn’t reading this for a class. Or it could be because I’ve had more real life experiences since then, and am able to sympathise with some of the writers. But with many of the stories, it opened an entirely new world to me. One I’ve never thought of before, but now that I know it exists, it will stay with me forever. I think this book touched me more than others because it was written by the women in a very direct and simple way, making their stories profoundly powerful. A lot of the other books I’ve read about women in other countries were written by an educator trying to understand a culture. Here, the women lay their culture out without any apology or self-consciousness. In most of the stories there is not a clear cut answer to the problems the women face. They are incorporating new traditions (sometimes Western) with their traditions, and trying to make it work for them. They experience some of the same struggles we do here as women; rape, pedophiles, abuse, and more. But some of what they face is so far from what we deal with, part of me couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. The one instance that really stood out to me was when one of the authors and her friend from college were detained, and then taken to a prison camp, without even knowing why. The trauma they experienced there was something I knew happens. But to actually read an account of someone who went through it was eye opening. I would encourage everyone, male or female, to read this book. There are so many traumas and miscarriages of justice in this world, and this book reminds us that although you may not be able to fix the system, everyone still needs to do what they can to make a change. The writers in this book are strong women who are living life to the fullest even in the midst of their own doubts, and the sometimes cruel world they live in.