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A Thousand Sisters: My Journey Into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman
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A Thousand Sisters: My Journey Into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,197 ratings  ·  290 reviews
Lisa Shannon had a good life — a successful business, a fiancé, a home, and security. Then one day in 2005, an episode of Oprah changed her life. The show focused on women in Congo, a place known as the worst place on earth to be a woman. She was suddenly awakened to the atrocities there — millions dead, women being raped, children dying in shocking numbers. It was then th ...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by Seal Press (CA)
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Christina Mitchell
Oct 23, 2011 rated it liked it
I have difficulty reading memoirs of Western women experiencing the reality of violence in the global South. I have no right to say this, mind you. I am a Western woman...a white woman on top of that. I tread lightly in what I am about to say, mainly because I know that I could be labeled a hypocrite. With that danger in mind, I will proceed to trumpet the efforts and determination of Congolese women. I have been to the eastern Kivu provinces and while I learned much, what I learned most of all ...more
Carolyn Carrier
I'm...fairly conflicted about this book, but I think most of my issues stem from the writing style and its deficiencies--I'm hoping some things just don't come across in the reading. I should start by saying that I think this is an excellent book for an introduction to the atrocities of the Congo if you're still uninformed. It is a huge, horrific problem that has not garnered nearly enough international attention and help (perhaps because the Congo isn't known for its oil surplus?). In many resp ...more
Tara Chevrestt
This is going to come across as heartless to some people, but I had mixed feelings about this book. First, I must applaud the author, Lisa Shannon for setting aside a pretty comfortable life to travel to the Congo of Africa for 5 weeks and meet these women in need. Also, this is a situation that needs to be made known to the rest of the world.

The women of Congo are dealing with not only mass genocide of their villages, but also mass rape. It's so bad, they have a hospital full of women suffering
Oct 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Whew, this is a tough one. On the one hand, you have to admire someone who takes up a cause unrelated to her with her whole heart, throwing family and jobs under the bus...but then you want to know why. Why this cause and not the hundreds of others? She attempts to answer this question by traveling to the Congo - but then seems intent on merely totting up the atrocities. How many of you have lost children? she would ask, pressing for details. For what purpose? An accounting of atrocities to make ...more
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, biography, congo
Many cringe on reports of genocide, starvation, mutilation, etc. Their sympathy/empathy might be engaged, but few do anything about it. Upon learning of the plight of the women of the Congo, Lisa Shannon made a commitment to do something to help them.

After organizing marathon fund raisers in the US, Lisa went to the Congo. I was thrilled to see that the money she raised went right to the needs since it appears that Women for Women has almost no administrative costs. That this charity is working
Eileen Souza
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, genocide
This is the best book that I have read on the struggles in the Congo. I'll admit that I am biased, because I sponsor a woman in the Congo through Women For Women Int., and participate in the annual Run For Congo Women in Tempe, AZ each year. However, I believe that Lisa did an excellent job of sharing the true story of the conflict in the Congo and it's impact on people - even when it meant showing her own weakness/embarassments/mistakes as she attempts to change the way that women are treated i ...more
Feb 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
I can say with confidence that this is one of the most abysmal books I've ever read. I read this last year and am just now writing a review on account of how angry it made me. If you're looking for a prime example of self-important white people traveling to war-torn nations they know nothing about to save the helpless, suffering villagers with their money and whiteness, this is the book for you. Our great hero sees an Oprah special on the brutalities taking place in the DR of the Congo and decid ...more
Shannon did a really valuable thing, but, I can't help but see how self serving it is. She did pull herself out of a depression by helping others, but the whole fact she keeps emphasizing that it was from Oprah was just weird to me. It never felt authentic in the way that Greg Mortenson was authentic in his quests.
The writing in this book is terribly disorganized and disconnected. A co-writer would have made this a more enjoyable read. As it is, I couldn't even read it through to the end, but in
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I simply can't watch horror movies or read Stephen King books but I can and do read books about real people and real events that are far more horrifying than fiction. The tears they bring remind me that I am still human - one very, very lucky human."A Thousand Sisters" is not a long book but the story is moving, sad and, hopefully, inspirational.

Reading"Half the Sky" which laid bare the atrocities women around the world are suffering and the work that is being taken on by NGOs spurred me to spon
Sabrina Rutter
Mar 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: humanitarian
I had a hard time understanding this book at first. I'm not really into politics at all, so I have no real concept of anything of that nature. The begining of the book gives an indepth description of the politics surrounding the war in the Congo, but for someone like me it was rather confusing, and I admit boring. I pushed through it though and as I read I began to really grasp everything.
I have to warn you that this book will make you cry. Lisa tried to keep this book "clean" (without adding a
Apr 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There is a life that women in Congo live that is so horrific, I'm still numb from reading about it, and I haven't been able to even partially fathom what i read about. Rape is a cultural norm in Congo. Rape, and murder. I thought about this while i was in the process reading the book, as I drove my car down a safe street late at night, as I rode my bike down a safe path in the middle of the day, as I sat in my living room and felt secure that my house would not be stormed, I would not be dragged ...more
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this book took a long time to read, not beacause of the difficulty of the text (the author wrote in a very accesible style) but because of the content. I found I had to set it down frequently and digest what I had read. With that said, it isn't necessarily gory, but shocking in it's brutality. We need to be aware of what is happening to people in other parts of the world. I can't fathom why we accept the evening news reporting on celebrity gossip (Tiger Woods, Michael jackson, Anna Nicol ...more
Eileen Oviatt
Aug 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
I was really hoping I'd like this book, but I can't even begin to say that I did. This was such a self-centered book that barely touched on the surface of what should be a very poignant topic. Every time Shannon came close to describing something about her experience, it was ruined with her personal feelings - that really don't add a thing to (and often take away from) the book. The worst point was when Shannon described another's "white girl angst" when this book is nothing but her own "white g ...more
Bea Griffin
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
It was educational, however the author's attitude towards the problem was a little annoying.. tiresome? Ignorant to say the least, and insensitive. To come into a woman's home and ask her to list all of her misfortunes in gruesome detail, and then have no real plan of attack to help?? I failed to find a point. I was also a little offended and unhappy to hear the author's complaints about the village people asking for help in the form of money or sugar... Did she not come there to help? Not exact ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This read a bit like the Congo version of “eat, pray, love”. Although in Lisa Shannon’s defense, she’s not nearly as self absorbed as Elizabeth Gilbert. I read this book after I was turned off by “half the sky” and wanted to read a book that would educate me about sex trafficking and violence against women. This book did a fair job, but I can’t help but brace myself against the inevitable ethnocentricity of the author. Please stop using names and pictures to document these women’s stories. They ...more
Jul 15, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a chronicle of horrors. Lisa Shannon, a successful filmmaker from Portland,OR, videotaped interviews with Congolese women who have suffered atrocities beyond imagining. Her interviews, translated as the women spoke, were, according to the author's note in the front of the book, transcribed directly from video for this book. Shannon, who gave up a thriving career to plunge herself into a war zone founded RUN FOR CONGO WOMEN. This organization funds sponsorship for Congelese women to retur ...more
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-issues
When young 30-something Lisa Shannon spoke as the final keynote at a three-day fundraiser's conference in D.C. this June, I was awed by this former high-income photographer's passion and single-handed efforts to launch "Run for Congo Women" and start a political movement after watching an episode of Oprah. Her first-hand tales and photos of her Congolese Sisters' suffering and joy brought the whole audience to tears; we gave a standing ovation. (One co-host addressed the group afterward and said ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
It's hard to separate my reaction to the story of this book from my feelings about the author and the way this was written. The story of Lisa Shannon's journey to Congo and the aftermath she witnessed of horrendous atrocities against women there is gut-wrenching. You cannot read this book and sleep easily afterwards. It is almost impossible to sit in your comfortable chair at home reading this book and think about women in some corner of the earth having nothing to eat, watching their neighbors ...more
May 17, 2010 rated it liked it
This memoir, which documents Lisa Shannon's attempt to raise awareness of the plight of the woman of Congo, is outrageously inspiring. After hearing about the conditions in Congo on Oprah, Shannon founds an organization called Run for Congo Women, completes a solo 30-mile run to raise funds, and then travels to Congo to meet the women she is sponsoring. I can't even imagine having the kind of heart and courage Shannon has. I am putting down this book humbled and scanning my brain for ways I can ...more
Sandy H
I really wish I could rate this book higher because I care so much about the subject matter. Women in Congo are living through horrific times and most of the world is oblivious. I wish for more publicity, more light to be shone upon the atrocities being committed there. Personally, although I've done quite a bit of reading on Congo and have been volunteering with refugees from Congo in my home town, I wanted to learn more, grow more, understand more. This book did none of that. This book wants v ...more
Jul 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have mixed feelings about this book. It does a terrifyingly good job of illustrating the horrors of women's lives in the Congo. Unlike others, I don't mind the inclusion of personal information regarding the author's life. What I don't like is that Shannon's activism appears to be a response to her own depression and the one dimensional representation of the women she meets. Shannon presents their personal tragedies - rape, deaths of husbands, children, etc. and even writes things like, "She r ...more
It's about a women who watches Oprah, sees a sad story. Takes it upon herself to read more about the situation in Congo (Africa). Takes it upon herself to try to raise money and get more awareness out there regarding the situation in Congo and she even goes a step further and travels to Africa with Women for Women.

Within her travels she tells stories of women. Women being taken from their homes, women being cut up, women being raped, women witnessing their child or husband being killed infront o
Aug 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book was very poorly written and didn't seem to go much of anywhere. The author was looking for a cause and evidently invested her life in it because nothing in her life was very exciting or worthwhile. She had adventures in the Congo, but it all seemed surreal, rather than the hell that it was. It shed light on ugly and brutal wars and warring factions in the Congo and how they destroyed the lives of thousands of innocent people, especially women and children. It also convinced me that I N ...more
Danielle Palmer
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book provides an intimate and disturbing look into what women living in conflict areas are subjected to, as well as all the difficulties those compelled to help face. A thousand sisters is not a book for the faint of heart - many very disturbing topics such as abduction, rape, and mutilation are covered. There were two overwhelming feelings I had at the end: I felt overwhelmingly grateful to live in a stable country where women have so many rights, and I felt such compassion for women who d ...more
Cassie Hanson
Dec 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm only 100 pages in and I've already sponsored a sister through

Talk about powerful. I'll be adding this to World Lit. next semester, it will make for a great action research project for my seniors!

I did struggle with Shannon's constant reflection of her own life and her relationship with men. I figured it was there to stress how much this organization changed every part of her life; but it was, at times, a little be too much about her and not enough about the women she stud
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
As a few other people have said, Lisa Shannon is a philanthropist, not an author. Her intentions are good but at times her actions seem reckless or cringeworthy. Her intent on finding people she met once (who didn't feel a connection to her) put her and others at danger. There are defiantly cringe worthy moments when she asks questions that perhaps shouldn't have been asked. I felt she had an agenda to help the women of the DRC yet her own personal agenda too. (Not sure what it was). Interesting ...more
Feb 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Aside from the Congolese women's strength and beauty and the inspiration of Shannon actually starting something to help the situation, I found the narrative of her 5.5 weeks in the DRC somewhat disturbing. I wonder if her interviewing and filming inflicted more trauma than it relieved. How many times have the same women be asked about their story? By how many visiting foreigners? Shannon's book seemed more about her than the Congo. ...more
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Though I appreciated her clear-eyed outsider point of view of humanitarian work, she spent too much of the book settling personal scores. At times it felt like she wrote the book partly to stick it to those who didn't believe in her as she never misses an opportunity to take a snide swipe at someone who crosses her. The book in general reads like a diary. I would've appreciated a more studied account of the situation in the Congo. ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'd love to write a review, but I can't even stomach it. This author and what she did is appalling. Talk about white savior complex.....

Here's a link to the review I think best covers the book:
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book as the subject matter was of interest to me. But I constantly found myself annoyed or put off by the author. She seemed so naive at times it was maddening. That said, the content of the book is extremely gut-wrenching and I would recommend this book just to get the word out about the plight of women of Congo in general.
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Lisa J. Shannon is a human rights activist, writer, speaker, and author of the acclaimed book A Thousand Sisters. She is the founder of Run for Congo Women, the first national grassroots campaign in the US working to raise awareness of the forgotten humanitarian crisis in Congo, and has spearheaded many other major media and human rights campaigns for Congo and Somalia. She lives in Portland, Oreg ...more

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23 likes · 8 comments
“I don't know how to stop the atrocities. I don't know how to make people care. But looking into my sister's eyes, we seem to have carved out something between us that none of the madness can touch. Invisible threads.” 27 likes
“I interviewed my dad on video in his final weeks. When I asked about his work and finding meaning through helping others, he responded, "I don't think you can be focused on, 'Oh gee, I want to make a difference.' It has to be spontaneous. If it's not...there's some kind of egotistical thing going on. That's a red flag. You hope you impact people on the deepest level you are capable of at the time. Sometimes you hit it, sometimes you don't. You're trying.” 18 likes
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