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Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War

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In a time of death and terror, Leymah Gbowee brought Liberia's women together--and together they led a nation to peace. As a young woman, Gbowee was broken by the Liberian civil war, a brutal conflict that tore apart her life and claimed the lives of countless relatives and friends. As a young mother trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse, she found the courage to turn her bitterness into action, propelled by her realization that it is women who suffer most during conflicts--and that the power of women working together can create an unstoppable force. In 2003, the passionate and charismatic Gbowee helped organize and then led the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberia's ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike. With an army of women, Gbowee helped lead her nation to peace.--From publisher description.

246 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Leymah Gbowee

14 books26 followers
Leymah Roberta Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist responsible for leading a women's peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
The peace movement began when Gbowee reportedly had a dream where God told her, "Gather the women and pray for peace!" That was the beginning of the peace movement that united Christian and Muslim women against President Charles Taylor and the war.
This led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, and Gbowee, along with Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman, were awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 482 reviews
Profile Image for Amanda Konnik.
24 reviews2 followers
September 16, 2012
I'm about to cast a very unpopular review, unfortunately there is just no way around it. "Mighty Be Our Powers", was simply unmotivational.

I must first give credit to Leymah Gbowee for her personal account of the Liberian war. The atrocities are unimaginable, unfortunately there in lies my issue with her recount of this devastating piece of African history. The majority of this novel is an introduction of how she felt throughout a good 10 years. Every moment, memory, challenge is simply a glimpse. I would like to have had more of an in depth view of three or four major events that she'd witnessed and lived to tell, rather then a paragraph or two of dozens of memories. So many stories and memories went unresolved.

Where I feel she could have gone more in-depth, I feel she the time was spent on acronyms of programs that quite honestly bog down the heart of the story. With each acronym, some type of name dropping was sure to follow. The book would have been better titled if it commented on how "Program Reform Changed a Nation at War."

I desperately longed to learn more about the people in her life, and how they overcame the suffering together. I wonder if this kind of commitment to character is lacking because she herself doesn't really know the people who carried her. The brief passing about her children was a little shocking to say the least, considering she'd been surrounded by people who'd allowed her to abdicate her role as mother to do things that needed to be done.

I find many of her challenges and need to overcome, come from a selfish place. A place where she does it because she feels the need to prove something, and compensate for the things she felt were taken from her. Her accomplishments seemed to be more like personal victories versus community movements. They say a great leader is the one who gives praise to others. There is no praising others in this retelling.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge her ability to move mountains in a country where the devil himself sat looking at her from his power-seat. There is no doubt that she performed a modern day miracle. I just wish more time was spent on developing characters and story. Name dropping, and organization hoping was ineffective, and wasted valuable content space. The lives she saved are immeasurable, I'm sure. It just kinda feels like she makes every effort to ensure we don't forget it .

Great piece of sociology, just feels more like a lecture then a lesson. I was really hoping I would feel inspired and moved to do something.

Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,108 reviews749 followers
April 25, 2012
Lemah Gbowee has come as close as it is humanly possible to staring the devil in his face. She didn't blink, lived to tell about it, and is now the co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. In this memoir she describes her journey from hopelessness to empowerment. It is a story that will touch the hearts of any reader who dreams of a better world.

This is the memoir of a woman who experienced the devastation and horror of civil war in her native Liberia. In many ways her life was broken when the war shattered her girlhood hopes and dreams. A victim of circumstances beyond her control she ended up as a young mother trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse. In 1999 she found herself utterly depressed, mother of four children, separated from the father of her children, and with no ideas for a possible future for herself and her children.

Somehow she found the strength to turn her depression and bitterness into positive action. She began to work at helping those traumatized by the war and by promoting steps toward reconciliation and forgiveness. She gradually gained the realization that it is women who suffer the most during conflicts, and that if united women are in a unique position to do something about it. "When it comes to preventing conflict or building peace, there’s a way in which women are the experts." She read about Martin Luther King and Gandhi, and she began to see the possibility of the power of women working together to create a compelling force for peace.
"I read the Politics of Jesus [by Yoder], which talked of Christ as a revolutionary, fighting injustice and giving a voice to the powerless. I read Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and the Kenyan author and conflict and reconciliation expert Hizkias Assefa, who believed that reconciliation between victim and perpetrator was the only way to really resolve conflict, especially civil conflict, in the modern world. Otherwise, Assefa wrote, both remained bound together forever, one waiting for apology or revenge, the other fearing retribution."
Driven by her growing passion for her new found cause she helped organize and led the Women In Peace Building Network (WIPNET). This organization organized a coalition of Christian and Muslim women to stage mass actions to call for an end to violence and demand that there be peace. They confronted Liberia's ruthless president and rebel warlords in ways that only the mothers of Liberia could have done without being shot on the spot.

The actions of these women is an amazing story which I first learned about one evening while TV channel surfing. I came across the movie "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," a documentary about the role of women in bringing peace to Liberia. The bravery and audacity shown by the women in this film took my breath away. If you watch the DVD be sure to also watch the "extra feature" about the making of the film. I thought it was interesting to note that the film makers at first had a difficult time finding archival film footage of the women's mass action because CNN and other American networks had ignored the actions of the women. They had tons of footage showing young kids toting Kalashnikovs, but ignored the women demonstrating for peace. The BBC did a bit better job, but some of the best footage came from a former government videographer who hid his films in his house after President Taylor fled the country.

I think almost everyone agrees now that the action of these women hastened the end of the war, and consequently reduced the amount the death, destruction and suffering. Nevertheless, the postwar conditions were devastating.
"A war of fourteen years doesn't just go away. In the moments we were calm enough to look around, we had to confront the magnitude of what had happened to Liberia. Two hundred and fifty thousand people were dead, a quarter of them children. One in three were displaced, with 350,000 living in internally displaced persons camps and the rest anywhere they could find shelter. One Million people, mostly women and children, were at risk of malnutrition, diarrhea, measles and cholera because of contamination in the wells. More than 75 percent of the country's physical infrastructure, our roads, hospitals and schools, had been destroyed."
After the war, WIPNET was very much involved in securing the peace. "Peace isn't a moment, it's a very long process." Gbowee's post-war reputation for peace building now made her in demand as a speaker at international conferences. This exposure broadened her horizons, and she began to study techniques of reconciliation and peace. She is very complimentary of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Virginia where she earned a Master's Degree in conflict transformation studies. The movie, "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," allowed the whole world to learn about the peace building activities of the women in Liberia. This book must have been written prior to her winning the Nobel Peace Prize because I don't recall any mention of it in this book.

A reader of my review thus far could perhaps conclude that Leymah Gbowee must be a saint. To her credit she included in her memoir admissions to a number of mistakes and shortcomings in her life. The details of her family life and her organizational efforts are filled with nitty gritty problems, conflicts and jealousies. Her work at peace building took all of her time so she pretty much turned over her role as mother to her children to her sister. (Her sister was the one who deserves sainthood; unfortunately she unexpectedly died at age 40 which was a devastating loss to the children in her care.) During the worst stages of the civil war Gbowee's children were out of the country, safe in Ghana, while Gbowee stayed in Liberia to work for peace.

Leymah Gbowee's website: http://leymahgbowee.com/
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,735 reviews2,338 followers
December 28, 2020
MIGHTY BE OUR POWERS by Leymah Gbowee with Carol Mithers, 2011
#ReadtheWorld21 📍 Liberia

My #NobelLaureate reading paused in November, but back in December to read the memoir of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Gbowee, who shared the Prize that year with fellow Liberian, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Yemeni journalist, Tawwakol Karman. The 3 were noted for "for their non-violent efforts to promote peace and their struggle for women’s rights".

Gbowee's memoir details her work to organize the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a women's coalition that was instrumental in ending Liberia's 14-year civil war. She details some of her struggles in the book, those of addiction, tough relationships with family members, and the work that kept her from family for months at a time. She is unflinching in this book, laying out all her criticisms, her beliefs, and her own failings. Some parts were hard to read (war, child soldiers, rape, extreme poverty) and others felt like could have been edited down, e.g. there's a lot of policy and acronyms thrown around that seemed to take away from the personal stories.

✴️ Her words about the fundamental importance of local engagement in recovery, rebuilding, and reconciliation work after war vs. United Nations or multi-national NGOs efforts, not understanding the culture and geography, etc., was one of my biggest take-aways from this.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
32 reviews14 followers
November 6, 2011
Mighty Be Our Powers is truly one of the most inspiring books I've ever read.

If you doubt the power of a female-only space, read this book.

If you are interested in conflict resolution, read this book.

If you wonder how one woman can inspire a nation to fight for peace, read this book.

I can not recommend this book highly enough. Leymah Gbowee is an amazing, real woman and one of my role models.
Profile Image for Naori.
161 reviews
December 19, 2020
2.5 This may be purely my mind space but I think, without falling into the inspiring trap, this was an extraordinary movement that was based on some alternative but very smart techniques. It just seemed like the writing was in contention with the soaring points of the text and I felt like it had the ingredients to take off; however my book just hopped off my lap and fluttered to the ground, a fledgling. Again, my tired mind could be looking at the wrong pool of water but I had hoped for a better exposition for these creative, choreographed and savvy women.
Profile Image for Amy Moritz.
326 reviews16 followers
May 14, 2012
Throw the word "sisterhood" in the title of something and I'm immediately intrigued. That's just how I roll. Oh, and add a segment on NPR and I'm probably really going to be interested in the book. Such was the case with Mighty Be Our Powers. With little knowledge of Liberia or the civil war there, I came to the book with an open mind. Leymah does a fantastic job of describing her country both before and during the conflict. Her personal story is one of choices she made and living with those consequences both personally and later professionally. She struck me as a woman who was confident and determined yet not without some regret. At times, I felt the book became weighed down in the politics of the acronym groups working in Liberia and the surrounding countries and the transitions between her descriptions of political events and her own personal story were at a times abrupt and jerky. But the substance of the book is powerful. It's a perfect example that even those with the best intentions need to remember that all conflicts and problems need local solutions and that women are a vital part of the peace and rebuilding process. With her personal story, Leymah illustrates that we are never really a slave to our past decisions or life circumstances unless we choose to be held there. I can't help but be moved, even in my own privileged circumstances, by her close lines in the book "You are a symbol of hope. And so you, too, must keep on. You are not at liberty to give up." A powerful call to do what you can where you are. That's what changes the world.
198 reviews2 followers
April 6, 2012
This is the story of not only how a nation at war was changed but more basically it is the detailed story of the events in one woman's life which led her to that time and place where she could gather with and lead those women who made that change. Leymah gives a very detailed description of the events and phases in her life and doesn't gloss over the parts she regrets or those that were difficult. Not that it was ever easy but she had a support system to raise her children while she was becoming the warrior woman she felt she must be. That was the very difficult trade off she regretfully chose. What she didn't choose were the horrific killings and rapes that were happening all around her. Those were what she knew she had to enable the women around her to stand up and fight against.

"People who have lived through a terrible conflict may be hungry and desperate, BUT THEY'RE NOT STUPID. They often have very good ideas about how peace can evolve, and they need to be asked.

That includes women. Most especially women. When it comes to preventing conflict or building peace, there's a way in which women ARE the experts. Think of how intimately women know their homes. If the lights are out, we can walk through rooms without bumping into anything. If a stranger has been there, we sense it. That's how well we know our communities. We know who belongs, and who is a potentially threatening stranger. We know the history. We know the people. We knew how to talk to an ex-combatant and get his cooperation, because we know where he comes from. To outsiders like the UN, these soldiers were a problem to be managed. But they were our children."
Profile Image for Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji.
205 reviews31 followers
May 16, 2023
Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War is a memoir by Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a leader of the women's peace movement in Liberia. The book chronicles her personal journey from an innocent little girl to a traumatized but courageous activist who helped in the mobilizing of thousands of women to help end the brutal civil war that ravaged her country for more than a decade.

As she recounted the horrors of the civil war, the challenges she faced raising her children in the conflict zone, the struggles of being a woman in a patriarchal society, and the sacrifices she made pursuing peace in the face of violence, I could not help but feel inspired. It is a powerful story, well written, short and succinct. From the written word, I could literally envision her in Liberia during this tempestuous period. What I particularly loved about the book is how she blended the national story of Liberia with her own lived experience.

The book is not only a testimony of Gbowee's remarkable achievements, but also a call to action for anyone who cares about social justice and global peace. It is a reminder that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

I loved and enjoyed the book, and more importantly, I learned a lot more about the Liberia and their civil war.
Profile Image for Dimitris Papastergiou.
1,885 reviews57 followers
December 14, 2017
It was a good read. And a much more informative to the facts of the Liberian war than I expected.

Too much violence, too much fucking disgusting reporters interviewing women and if you weren't raped during the war then they weren't interesting in finding out how was your life until the war ended. Like.. really?!...

Laymah's story is a testament to human strength and the incredible power of peace. She achieved so much and made so many believe that they can stop this war that it's just unbelievable.

One of the main shockers here was that she and other activists told women to stop having sex with their husbands as means to stop the war. It kinda worked, although many got beaten because of it, repeatedly, so I dunno if that was a good idea.
Of course I don't live there and don't know how things were when the war wasn't ending over there, but it seems extreme to have to get beaten because you said you don't want to have sex. And that's a DUH point. Treading lightly here, but to be a woman in Lybia and to have to say no to sex as to achieve stopping the war with THAT, somehow seems... like what?! And yet, they did it, and they got beaten by their husbands, and not just a few, but most of those women.

So... yeah... that's mainly why humans suck so much.

Despite all the violence, all the raping and war caused mainly by men over there (duh), Gbowee and other activists have shown how courageous they can be in building peace in one of the most fucking violent places in the world.

Profile Image for Tracy.
925 reviews7 followers
October 3, 2021
Reading this was a very eye-opening experience for me. How is it that this all happened within my lifetime, and I don't recall ever knowing anything about it? Liberia. Africa. I didn't know it before, but I'll never forget it after reading this story.

There should be a special place in hell for whomever thought of the idea of using young boys as soldiers. Stealing them from their families, drugging them up, and training them to kill. The depravity is chilling, and the fact that the Women in society demand peace from these warlords is astonishing. Leyman describes the warlords negotiating peace as " They traveled in police motorcades and appeared each morning, well rested and satisfied. Stripped of their guns and the protection of their red-eyed young soldiers, it was easy to see them for what they were: small-time hoods, criminals, bullies, con men, nobodies who never wanted the war to end because without it, they would never have access to this kind of life. The women organize and go so far as to lock arms around the room where the "Peace Negotiations" are happening, to prevent the warlords from leaving without a cease-fire and plan for peace. It works.

The author has an easy voice to read, and tells the stories clearly and honestly. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. What a story of powerful women leading the way.
Profile Image for Birgitte Bach.
997 reviews22 followers
February 20, 2018
Beundringsværdig og modig kvinde, der skriver åbent og ærligt om sine fejl og personlige nedture, som hun får vendt til et helt fantastisk og inspirerende arbejde for bedre rettigheder for kvinder og for fred i de borgerkrigs hærgede lande i Afrika.
Profile Image for Denise.
305 reviews
September 5, 2023
A compelling book by Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee of Liberia. She chronicles her work as a peace activist, bringing women together in the Liberian Mass Action for Peace to protest the brutal civil war, and working tirelessly for women and girls' empowerment and leadership.
Profile Image for Kate.
32 reviews
May 12, 2012
What happens when reality violently jerks into a GRUESOME, LIVING HELL?

Not many teens I've spoken to know much about the Liberian War from the early 1990's to 2003. Yet that was one of the worst times in history- humans turned into disgusting creatures caught in chaos and no one was doing a thing about it. Finally, Leymah Gbowee, a strong yet lonely, hurting mother, changed everything with a demand for peace throughout West Africa with support from her fellow women.

Her autobiography shook me to the core. I learnt so much about the true, uncensored horrors of war the western world is so ignorant about. But as well as historical facts and shocking figures, I was invited into the minds, opinions and passions of women who turned political leaders'(and men's) words and empty promises into fruitful action. This was a revolution of thinking; reaffirming the power of feminine determination and the importance of looking forward and working hard for the better future.

For all high school students and above; for all the peacemakers, humanitarians and activists; for every individual seeking to work for a better tomorrow; this book is crucial, essential and perfect for all who have eyes and refuse to stay blind one moment longer.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
1,315 reviews28 followers
July 18, 2015
This memoir was interesting. It is about a woman in Liberia during their civil war. Her efforts helped to establish peace in their country and she went on to work internationally to being women into the peace process in Africa and the Middle East.

Although the story was interesting, it often got bogged down in acronyms and justifications. Although after being irritated about some of the things she talked about and then justified, I realized she didn't have to add them at all and was probably (maybe?) trying to be completely honest about all the complicated events that led her to where she ended up.

Anyway, I found out she received a Nobel prize for her efforts and I did like how she empowered women who began with no rights at all.

Anyway, not my favorite memoir, but interesting to read and educational. Don't tell anyone (as it will ruin my street cred) but it even teared me up at some points (in between some parts where I yawned).
Profile Image for Bailey.
434 reviews115 followers
March 5, 2015
This is a completely fascinating narrative of the Liberian Civil War that ended in 2003 - yes. I had no idea, and Gbowee actually won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 "for [her] non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work." This is a subject I knew nothing about, and I had no idea it was so recent.

The book itself is a little dry, and reads like Gbowee relating the story to Mithers. I'm sure this is what happened, but I've read narrated memoir before that felt more personal. It took me a while to read, and it was partially because of this. However, there are times when Gbowee's story is completely heartrending and emotional, as she talks about her family and her struggles with balancing her own life, especially with the undercurrent of alcoholism.

I really enjoyed this.
Profile Image for Jacqueline Bussie.
Author 5 books39 followers
March 21, 2020
I had the incredible experience of bringing Leymah Gbowee to Concordia College to speak as a guest of my office in November 2014. I was her host for two days on campus. She was an absolute inspiration. She drew a crowd of over 800 people and she received three standing ovations. This memoir recounts her heroic actions as an interfaith activist and persevering leader who ended a Civil War in her own nation using nonviolence and solidarity. I recommend it to anyone who believes in hope, or needs a dose of it.
Profile Image for K..
3,796 reviews1,022 followers
June 10, 2022
Trigger warnings: war, rape, death, murder, death of a loved one, gun violence, domestic violence, child soldiers, alcoholism

Well this was brutal. Don't get me wrong, it was also an inspiring story about the determination of women in general and one woman in particular. But the discussion of the constant nature of war and bloodshed in Liberia and the impact on both the population and neighbouring countries was fairly relentless. And given that I'm 39 now and Leymah Gbowee was 39 when this book came out, it DOES (to paraphrase Emma Thompson in Love, Actually) put my almost complete lack of significant life accomplishments into rather harsh perspective...
Profile Image for Ayesha.
31 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2019
I wept so many times as I read this!! This is one of the most touching books ever!

What makes it even more sad is the fact that it is not fiction.

Through this book, I gained an understanding of Liberia, Liberian civil war and Charles Taylor's regime.

Leymah Gbowee wrote about how every conflict is different and needs to be treated with understanding and empathy. I am impressed by how she empowered women and led them to finally end Charles Taylor's regime non violently.

As a leader she is always continuously evolving and improving her own skills with new education and experiences.

I think I just found my modern day role model in her!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
December 2, 2022
Leymah Gbowee dostala Nobelovu cenu za mier. Tazka kniha o Liberii a nepokojoch, ktore priniesli smrt, znasilnovanie a kradnutie. Detsky vojaci, znicene srdcia. Leymah sa podarilo dat dokopy moslimske a krestanske zeny a vytvorit tak silu, ktora sa odhodlala vzopriet teroru.
Profile Image for Marina.
76 reviews67 followers
January 15, 2022
Force ? courage ? résilience ? je ne sais pas encore comment axer mes sentiments. La seule chose que je peux dire c'est qu'il n'est pas aisé d'être une femme sur cette terre.
Profile Image for Kat LeFevre.
13 reviews
September 9, 2021
Wow. This book is heart breaking, moving and inspirational. What a phenomenal women and an introduction to the history of modern Liberia.
Profile Image for Kea.
76 reviews3 followers
July 16, 2022
Big thanks to my friend Becca for sending me this book. Not an easy read, but helpful for giving insight into Liberia's long civil conflict, as well as increasing my understanding of post-war Liberia. I have read about these players before, but Gbowee's story brings them alive in ways the news coverage never could.
Profile Image for Viktor Leijon.
6 reviews21 followers
April 10, 2021
Leymah Gbowee’s story is a testament to human strength and the incredible power of peace and sisterhood. Despite the violence and war caused primarily by men, women like Gbowee and her fellow female activists have shown the world how stable and courageous they can be in building peace in the most violent of places.
But one of the biggest lessons of Gbowee’s story is that however hopeless a situation might seem, positive change is never impossible, and it can come from the least likely of places.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
429 reviews263 followers
January 18, 2013
A couple of weeks ago I was at the library and I just so happened to stumble across Mighty Be Our Powers sitting there on the shelf. Many of you know that I'm attempting to read more non-fiction this year and that I'm participating in an Around the World reading challenge in the Goodreads.com group Around the World (In 52 Books). I didn't complete my challenge last year but I'm planning to this year so when I saw that this book was set in Liberia I knew this would be my read for that country.

I'll be honest with you, while I had heard of the African nation of Liberia prior to my picking up Mighty Be Our Powers I didn't know too much about the country and I had no idea that it had suffered a brutal civil war that waged on and off for about two decades. However, by the time I finished this remarkable read by Leymah Gbowee about her experienced during that turbulent time in her country's history.

In this powerful memoir Leymah describes her life before, during and after the war in Liberia. The account starts off not long before the war started when she was just a teenager starting college in the 1990's. She describes the care free life she lived before she moves on to retracing her life from after the war started and her life changed dramatically.

At 19 years of age Leymah found herself pregnant and in an abusive relationship with an older man that was taking advantage of her youth and her naivete. Battling feelings of hopelessness and loneliness she takes the first step to better her life for herself and her little ones by leaving their father and moving home where after some time she begins the rough journey of piecing her life back together again.

Leymah Gbowee's memoir is an inspiring read. Amidst a brutal civil war with many cards stacked against her she rises above many adversities to become a woman who leads others like her in the fight against poverty, rape and most of all the fight to bring international attention to the fact that women and children are often the ones who suffer most in times of war.

I learned a lot about the country of Liberia and about this one woman's experience during the civil war that struck her homeland. The writing of this memoir was easy to read, she told her story like it happened and didn't once make her role in various organizations seem like she was the most important person. There was not one ounce of vanity in her depictions which I truly appreciated. I loved the fact that while she focused on her role as a leader that she is just one of many who are making strides to better the lives of her fellow Liberians and that they not she, are the unspoken heroes of the war.

This book definitely sparked an interest in me to learn more about the people. culture and history of Liberia as well as the politics in the country. It also has me interested in checking out some of the NGO's that are in the country that are working to re-establish it's infrastructure and better the lives of the people.

I highly recommend this memoir to anyone wanting to learn some amazingly hard life lessons from a woman who thought that she wasn't good enough to raise her own children to leading thousands of women. It's an inspirational read and while she does talk about her faith in the book she only does it in passing and doesn't force her religious beliefs upon the reader which is another thing that I liked about reading her memoir. If you want to learn a little bit and broaden your horizons I suggest you check this one out and it is one of the best memoirs I've ever read.
Profile Image for Crystal.
1,365 reviews52 followers
May 22, 2016
I'll be honest and admit that I didn't know much about Liberia's civil war when I started this book. I didn't know much about Liberia. that was kind of the point of reading the book. And I think Ms Gbowee--Leymah--does a great job at communicating much of what occurred during the (ten years?) their county suffered through the horrific civil war. it's frightening to be reminded yet again how quickly a civilized and productive country can fall into horrific, genocidal civil war and violence. Leymah tells her story in such a way that the pain and the fear are visceral, from repeating the screams of people being murdered outside in the streets, to the horror of seeing dead bodies, to the rage of frustration with a government of so many selfish, violent men, ignoring the needs of its civilians. Leymah fills us in on basic history that led up to the tensions that escalated into the war. She talks about key political figures that helped and hindered the war--and the peace--efforts. She explains basic international relations in the area, and demonstrates how fluid many national boundaries have been during times of violence and crisis.
But mostly Leymah talks about herself, and her family, and how her life was affected by AND affected the war and the subsequent move for peace. She never pretends to be a perfect person--frankly, she's a hot mess a lot of the time, bouncing from one relationship to a married man to another, single mother to 4 children and a number more children, both strangers and extended family, a serious alcoholic through much of her life, and often very depressed--but through it all, strong and smart and learning. She didn't let her first serious relationship, with all its verbal and sexual and physical abuse, keep her down forever. She didn't let anyone other than herself define herself, or stop her from doing the things she needed to achieve, which in this book is primarily the Liberian peace movement. I also liked how Leymah's faith, however shaky at times, inspired her understanding of the world, and how it leaked out into her writing, the inclusion of relevant Bible passages, in a matter of fact, not preachy way.
What Leymah and other women (and some men) managed to do in Liberia was inspiring. I appreciated learning about this time and place, about her life and about Liberia's history, no matter how horrifying her story sometimes became. It is a worthwhile read. Pick it up if you can, and appreciate the work brave women like her did to help secure a better future for their children and themselves.
(Although I can't particularly recommend the audio version--it's read by a narrator with an American accent who adds nothing additional to the process.)
Profile Image for Amanda Lima.
35 reviews1 follower
July 5, 2020
I heard Gbowee’s voice while reading the book. Powerful story.
Profile Image for Julie Laporte.
331 reviews
November 21, 2011
Very empowering book for women. Inspiring. Made me realize just how much work can be done to achieve peace--and how many organizations and degreed programs/certifications/training there are available. Peace has always seemed like a sort of laissez-faire sort of concept for me (an over-simplification, but you get my drift)--a sort of ideal, and outside education and working for tolerance and conflict resolution, I wasn't sure how much a single person can do. This book will show you! I believe even more now in developing a Department of Peace, and how powerful it could be.

The first half of Leymah's story will break your heart. It's so hard to think of these things going on while I was prancing through my childhood, unawares. The second half of the book won't pull you along like the first, but I still felt obligated and privileged to read how Liberia's transformation was going to happen (and somewhat, that of West Africa). They still have a long way to go--but how far they've come in such a short time is amazing.

The little I knew of African Modern History, I had a very hard time understanding how it could be so atrociously violent. Aspects of this narrative have helped me to understand...certainly not justify, but comprehend how one at least gets started off on that road. Kidnapping young boys from their villages, turning off their humanity and compassion, addicting them to drugs...and this on top of generations of oppression and powerlessness, which we we (the Western world) were not innocent bystanders of, but agitators. It's not easy seeing what a damaging role our governments have played in third-world politics. It's important that we understand our role then, but NOW, as well, especially in the things we purchase every day which transfer more and more power to heartless corporations, such as in the realm of food. Don't let this book cause you to feel powerless--your purchasing power is lifeblood for conscienceless companys....things you purchase every week, like coffee and bananas. Seek out fair trade and organic if you can't get local! (If you are interested in help identifying changes you can make in your purchases, switching to better sources, just ask me!)
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933 reviews104 followers
March 14, 2012
This startlingly intimate memoir is uplifting and heart-wrenching, sometimes in the same paragraph. Ms. Gbowee pulls no punches describing her experiences during the decade-long civil war that destroyed much of her country. There are some scenes in this book that are incredibly difficult to read as she documents the terror and fear that were constant companions for thousands of Liberians for years on end.

Ms. Gbowee is open about her personal failings, as well as the problems her country faced and still faces. But I so admire her willingness to be open about her mistakes, to use her experiences to lead her to empathy instead of despair, and to reach out to others. She, and those with whom she works, do an incredible amount of good, working for peace and justice and inspiring others - especially women - to take a stand as well. Ms. Gbowee is one of my heroes.

This quote resonated with me: "Nothing feels distant anymore...Every conflict has a face, many faces. Every problem touches your heart."

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