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A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  971 ratings  ·  165 reviews
In the tradition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Nothing to Envy, this is a masterful, humane work of literary journalism by New Yorker staff writer Alexis Okeowo--a vivid narrative of Africans, many of them women, who are courageously resisting their continent's wave of fundamentalism.

In A Moonless, Starless Sky Okeowo weaves together four narratives that form a powe
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Hachette Books (first published October 2nd 2017)
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Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Liberty, that precious, delicate right, is fleeting in so much of the world. Sometimes it is there for you to take and enjoy; other times it suddenly and violently disappears, as if it never existed in the first place. But there are always people who go looking for that freedom, even at personal risk. They are not only activists and vigilantes, but also ordinary people.

Alexis Okeowo interviews citizens of four African countries to showcase acts of rebellion, both big and small. These courage
Ina Cawl
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As I read this book it dawned on me how my continent can be so beautiful and seductive to anyone who visit it but it also had another side which is dark and it could explain why many horrific things seems to happen only in Africa
This book moves through four countries two eastern African countries and two western African countries
This countries are Uganda Somalia Mauritania and Nigeria.
Each of these countries have it is difficulties and obstacles but also brave activists who also tries to surpas
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it
2.5 stars.
*Review below*
I was so absorbed by the personal stories of some of the people in Alexis Okeowo’s book, that more than once, I almost missed my stop on the subway whilst reading it. Her subjects traverse the continent -- Uganda in the East, Nigeria to the West; northward to Mauritania and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. Okeowo is a seasoned journalist, having moved to Uganda straight out of college to intern for a newspaper for a year - and she’s focused her beat on the continent ever s
Sara-Jayne Poletti
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful, eye opening collection of stories. This nonfiction book from Alexis Okeowo was impossible to put down. She effortlessly weaves together stories from four different countries in modern day Africa (Uganda, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Somalia), detailing atrocious experiences with frankness, simplicity, and above all humanity. She showcases the courage and resilience of everyday people, painting a picture of countries we usually only hear about through a very imperialistic lens. My o ...more
Kimba Tichenor
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too often in the American media, Africa is depicted as a continent marred by political extremism, poverty, and war crimes. And certainly all these things exist in Africa. But what this image does not capture is the resilience and everyday courage of the many ordinary men and women who envision for their countries and themselves a different path forward. In short, the image that too often emerges in the press is one that is devoid of humanity, of the every day actions of ordinary people caught up ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book. A book about Africa, written by a first-generation Nigerian American and told from the perspective of ordinary people instead of bureaucrats and international aid workers? Sign me up.

The stories themselves are compelling: an LRA child soldier and the girl who was forced to marry him, who choose to stay together after they are free; one man's campaign against modern-day slavery in Mauritania; a girls basketball team that continues to play despite threats to thei
RaeAnna Rekemeyer
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okeowo is a first generation daughter of Nigerian immigrants. After college, she decided to experience Africa for herself. Currently, she is a staff writer at The New Yorker. A Moonless, Starless Sky is her debut book of literary journalism delving into experiences she had while living and working in Africa.
Exploring the fight against extremism in Africa she focuses on the LRA in Uganda, modern day slavery in Mauritania, Boko Haram’s reign of terror in Nigeria, and religious terrorism in Somalia
Silvia Cachia
A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa, by by Alexis Okeowo.

I knew about this book thanks to a Goodreads friend, Ina. who also blogs here.

The book writen by American journalist Alexis Okeowo, who grew up in Texas, and whose parents are from Nigeria, relates to us the lives of several men and women in these four countries: Uganda, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Somalia.

The book was published in October 2017, and the information is very current, which made it more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Memoirs and non-fiction are my favourite books to read. They are typically informative and educational and provide an opportunity for reflection and appreciation for of the things I have or have been given, and the things I have accomplished or missed or even failed at. So, I really wanted to find favour with this book....(NOTE: skip to the last paragraph if you wish to avoid hearing my frustrating experience with this book!)

This nonfiction tells four separate stories of ordinary people from fou
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
There were two quotes from the preface that set the tone for this book perfectly:

They are not only activists and vigilantes, but also ordinary people. I became interested in subtler forms of resistance, ways of fighting that are not easy to notice. Preserving your way of life amid extreme situations is also a vital struggle.


That is the thing about fighting extremism—each victory, tiny and large, can feel monumental.

In this book, Alexis Okeowo frames the picture of resistance through this unde
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a short nonfiction work by a Nigerian-American journalist that goes behind the headlines in four conflict areas in Africa, telling the stories of people who range from victims to local leaders. It is a very engaging book, a quick read that introduces readers to several countries and humanizes big events, although at only 236 pages for so many stories, it is very brief and therefore unable to treat its subjects with the depth I would have liked.

Eunice is a teenage girl living in rural nor
Dayle (the literary llama)
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
RATING: ★★★★★ / 4.5 Stars!

REVIEW: I received this book for free from Hachette Books in exchange for an honest review.

I love non-fiction but there aren't a lot of non-fiction books that interest me. I'm particular about my choices, mainly the author, because a great subject could be rendered completely boring in the wrong hands. Still, when Hachette offered me a chance to read A MOONLESS, STARLESS SKY, I immediately said yes. The synopsis may be small but the promise of this book was great and I
Dec 24, 2017 rated it liked it
If you're looking for something indepth on the topic of extremism in Africa, this is not it. It clocks in at under 250 pages and has NO index. What you have here is a short collection of personality profiles. The personalities being profiled are extraordinary--a man on a crusade to end modern-day slavery; girls snatched from their schools by terrorists and the consequences they face for their actions; a female student athlete who continues to play basketball despite death threats--but I wish thi ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The comparison to Katherine Boo's, Behind the Beautiful Forevers made me weary, but I can wholeheartedly confirm that this author's compassion for her characters far surpasses that book!
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Gathering my thoughts on how to articulate why this book disappointed me.
Amirah Jiwa
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A collection of beautifully vivid stories that manage to captivate without losing any of the context and nuance essential to reporting like this. Okeowo doesn't fall victim to any of the common pitfalls when discussing religious extremism or conflict: no poverty porn, no casting her subjects as pitiful and their situations as devastating, no ignoring all the shades of gray to paint a black-and-white picture of what's right or wrong, good or evil. Most importantly, this book does what it set out ...more
Jill Dobbe
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional and well written book about people fighting for basic human rights in four distinct African countries. The four compelling stories included in this book are the accounts of what the author experienced while living and working in Uganda, Nigeria, Mauritania, and Somalia. The stories and experiences are well researched, real, honest, and eye-opening.

I found each story I read more remarkable and shocking than the previous ones. The author brings to light what regular people have hav
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
There was something about a group of girls, urgently devoted to scoring a goal, or making a basket, through any means necessary, scuffling, pushing, and pulling, that deeply offended men who couldn’t stand to see women with both strength and agency. The sight of a girl who could fight and defend and force herself into where she needed to be was frightening. It meant that she had a mind of her own that no man could touch, or ever hope to control. In a place with fragile law and order, those who w ...more
Shirleen R
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Proper review - TBA

5/5 In A Moonless, Starless Sky , reporter Alexis Okweowo includes no maps. No glossary, no footnotes. The only numbers you'll find are years in which events took place. This is not a textbook, because Africans are not amorphous, collective statistics. Okweowo crafted this book in a deliberate fashion that foregrounds the voices of her subjects - Eunice, Bosco, Biram, Elder, Aisha - and their specific home African countries - Nigeria, Mauritania, Uganda, Somalia. Each subje
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book more.

There are two chief flaws, IMO. The first is a lack of focus. The best section of the book is Eunice and Bosco's story (Uganda). They were teen-agers when kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army, and Eunice was given to Bosco as his wife. Today, they are still together with a family and coping with their experiences. It concentrates on these two with just enough background to put them in context. Aisha's story (Somalia) is also focused mainly on her and benefits f
Alexis (hookedtobooks)
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
Thank you so much to @hachettebooks for sending me this book! I absolutely loved it!
The book is a work of non fiction by Alexis Okeowo, who went to Africa and met all these interesting people fighting extremism in Africa. The book follows four different events: a couple in Uganda who were kidnapping victims of Joseph Kony's LRA, a man in Mauritania fighting to abolish slavery in his country, two people in Nigeria affected by Boko Haram, and a young woman playing basketball in Somalia, even thoug
Margaret Sankey
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Okeowo, the child of Nigerian immigrants to Montgomery, AL, has been immersed in African politics as a Princeton Africa Fellow and journalist. This work is a vivid compilation of four extraordinary situations, arranged around the theme of individual action against extremism--a personal campaign against slavery, personal redemption from a coerced life as a child soldier, finding team belonging in a women's basketball league and violent resistance to Boko Haram. This is journalistic--which is not ...more
Amy Morgan
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely a story everyone should read. The tales of the four individuals in this book are stories of bravery, each of them taking a stand for what they believe in often at tremendous risk to themselves. It is quite scary to read the events that have occurred and are still occurring in Africa. This is a book that will really make you think about your own freedoms and how you should not take them for granted.
Bondi Bilala
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing collection of stories of men and women across four countries fighting extremism. Reading their stories makes it seem less like its "their" problem and more like "it could have been me"
Karen Ashmore
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! The profiles of four people fighting extremism in Africa:
1) Eunice and Bosco were both kidnapped as children in northern Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army, where they met and started a family. They both managed to escape the horrors of the LRA and fled to Gulu, where they took part in a rehab program and continued raising their family and supporting those who escaped the LRA.

2) Biram leads a lifelong fight against slavery in Mauritania. Although slavery is illegal (just lik
Aug 29, 2020 rated it liked it

Rating isn’t for content, as these stories are very important, but more so for the style this is written. The thesis of this book is based on ordinary people’s resistance to religious extremism - the issue is, the content of the stories doesn’t necessarily match this thesis. Some of the stories cover ordinary acts of resistance, but 1 part of this book follows one of the most influential anti-slavery activists in all of Mauritania. I feel like the individual parts of this book are great but
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
We need more books like this. The author goes beyond the headlines and look at events from the lives of individuals. Two of the stories I was familiar with based on those headlines - the capture of the Chibok girls in Nigeria and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. The other two about slavery in Mauritania and girls basketball in Somalia were new to me. For each of these, background information is provided, but the main story is told through the eyes of the participants. The Mauritanian story ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A set of humanely told stories about individuals or groups fighting various forms of extremism in Uganda, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Somalia. Okeowo has a unique and thoughtful perspective on these stories that made them even more compelling. I wanted more of a narrative arc across the four stories, tying them together around what the title indicates. A conclusion expanding on stereotypes about Africa versus the reality of life would be really helpful for the reader, but the stories are really int ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What can I say...!?

This book cover entails *Extremism" centred on the Islamic Religion, now here it focuses on 4 countries each with a profound story to tell, from (LRA) Lord Resistance Army to boko Haram, racial injustices and how the government did very little to stop these diabolical happenings. Alexis gives us an insight on the prior and boy oh boy was she raw about them that really added so much richness and soul to the book!! I loved it!! Short and brilliant and so much to Learn from. It d
Annie Rice
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book, providing insight into the LRA in Uganda, slavery in Mauritania, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Shabbab in Somalia - some of which I had heard of, but none of which I had been very familiar with. If anything, this reporting further reinforced my aversion to prescriptive religious influence in all forms, and strong support of scientific education as a way to help people explain the world. It was a bit disheartening to come to the understanding that so many people in Afr ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Cover image update 2 13 Mar 27, 2017 07:08AM  

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Alexis Okeowo was born in Houston and grew up in Montgomery, Alabama.

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