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Tour d'Afrique: Africa A-Z > Off to Mauritania (July/Aug 2013)

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message 1: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Here are a few ideas for the July/Aug stopover when we're off to Mauritania (I admit it, I had no idea where Mauritania is and had to look up on Wikipedia!)... I couldn't find much that wasn't either highly academic, or in French or Arabic, or that was fiction (at least not in English) so if you've got any ideas, we're keen to hear them!

* "The Fearful Void by Geoffrey Moorhouse (half the book set in Mauritania)
* "Silent Terror: A Journey into Contemporary African Slavery" by Samual Cotton
* "Travels In Mauritania" by Peter Hudson
* "Impossible Journey" by Michael Asher

Not entirely sure if Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival is set in/around Mauritania - does anybody know?


message 2: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Hm, so, is Mauritania going to be another "challenging" stopover in terms of book suggestions? :)

Nobody's got any other ideas?? (That would just confirm my suspicions that there isn't huge literary scene (yet) that we can draw on... :) )


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I read Cotton for my world challenge, though that wasn't ideal for my self-imposed rules. I have Hudson and would read it to help fill in.

If you think Mauritania is sparse, wait until we get to Sao Tome & Principe!


message 4: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Osho wrote: "...If you think Mauritania is sparse, wait until we get to ao Tome & Principe..."

*laugh* yes, good point, Osho! :)

Thanks for your thoughts on Hudson and Cotton. We'll just see how things go... at least we managed to find some books, I think we've had some other countries where it's almost been impossible to find any! :)


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I see on Amazon:

The Ignored: Cries of Pain and Injustice from Mauritania by Sidi Sene

Mamadou Sall appears to be a francophone author.

This might be good:

Barefoot Through Mauretania by Odette Du Puigaudeau
"Odette du Puigaudeau is best known for her major ethnographic work, Arts et Coutumes des Maures, a detailed study, in words and drawings, of the cultural world of the nomads of Mauretania. The present work explains how she came to write it. Barefoot Through Mauretania is an account of her first journey across the country by camel in 1933-4, with her life-long companion, Marion Sénones. The book records the adventures of the two women during that year, often with a touch of humour. Above all, however, it presents a picture of a way of life that has, as they feared, almost vanished, and their determination that it should be recorded. Odette du Puigaudeau wrote a number of other books on different aspects of nomad life, such as the salt caravans and date markets, as well as articles on prehistoric rock-drawings, and a charming tribute to her pet leopard, Rachid."


message 6: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i have a colleague from Mauritania...i could ask him if he knows of anything for us that has been translated into English. i think yes, this is one of those French and Arabic countries with very little translated into English. :/

Barefoot through Mauritania sounds compelling...i wonder if it's difficult to get.


message 7: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Yes, that'd be great, Marieke! Let's see what your colleague might come up with. :)


message 8: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (last edited Mar 20, 2013 11:43AM) (new)

Tinea (pist) | 406 comments Mod
Hmmm, I found a couple, but they look rather boring.

* The Ignored Cries of Pain and Injustice from Mauritania
* Ending Slavery: Hierarchy, Dependency, And Gender In Central Mauritania
* Mauritania: The Struggle for Democracy

This one could help understand the current Mali crisis (and is available from my library!): Western Sahara: The Roots Of A Desert War

Of those suggested above, Cotton's Silent Terror interests me most.


message 9: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Thanks for your suggestions, Tinea!

And yes, I could find a few academic titles as well but didn't list them as I thought they might be too dry. :) But will check out the ones you suggested, you never know, they could be "digestible". :)

I'll set up a poll in the next few days.


message 10: by Rusalka (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) A blog I followed last year was A Year of Reading the World. I remember her having a really hard time finding a book for Mauritania, so looked it up for you guys (I'm not going to have time to participate in this one :( ) http://ayearofreadingtheworld.com/201...

The book she used in the end (really the end, 12 December!) was:
Mohamed Bouya Bamba - Angels of Mauritania and the Curse of the Language


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, I love that blog!


message 12: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments The poll is up now (http://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/83...), sorry that it's been a few weeks in coming...

Hope I didn't miss any books so let me know if I did. :)

Poll will remain open until 15 May.


message 13: by Muphyn (last edited May 19, 2013 06:52PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Sorry, forgot to announce the winner for the July/August selection. I hope a few you be able to join us when we delve into "Silent Terror: A Journey into Contemporary African Slavery".


message 14: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new)

Tinea (pist) | 406 comments Mod
Just got my copy! I'll start reading it over the weekend.


message 15: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I just started it this morning. I think it will be a good read. :)


message 16: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new)

Tinea (pist) | 406 comments Mod
This is really powerful. I'm a little over halfway done. I really appreciate the narration-- a journalist who deeply researched enslavement in Northwest Africa shares his research and findings, but through the lens of his personal emotional journey of a human experiencing second-hand trauma as he takes in stories of torture, and as an African American man confronting contemporary slavery and that of his ancestors. We read a lot of books about truly awful experiences in this group, and this feels like an important reminder of the emotional toll of secondary trauma, and the duty to listen, to learn more, and to act that comes with knowledge.


message 17: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
That's how I reacted to the book, too. It's a really compelling way to present research that is both personal and objective. And it has important messages, yet presented without a hammer over our heads. I really wish this book was more widely available. I think more people should read it.


message 18: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (last edited Aug 09, 2013 12:39PM) (new)

Tinea (pist) | 406 comments Mod
Yes, I'm really shaken that I haven't heard of this before; I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the region. It's one of those topics where I sort of had heard maybe sometime that slavery still occurred in some Sahelian/Saharan communities, but had never paid it much mind or understood the extent and depth of the disaster. Always (and Cotton gets into this question): why? Why some issues but not others? Why some people but not others? It's hard to imagine the geopolitical reasons for silence on this issue-- it's not like any of these countries are particularly powerful, and though they may have mineral wealth, it doesn't seem like there's a reason human rights groups and the international community would ignore this, when similar issues are met with international outrage.

Cotton's account of chattel slavery in Mauritania describes torture and physical/cultural genocide of an indigenous population that goes well beyond individual enslavement, but it's reminiscent of the plight of foreign domestic workers (many from SE Asia and Africa) in some Middle Eastern countries whose working conditions resemble enslavement. Here's a news article about it. A friend worked with a non-profit that was fighting for Ethiopian domestic workers' rights in Lebanon a few years ago. Obviously, enslavement of domestic workers is hardly limited to the Middle East or North African regions.

Does anyone know more background or information about enslavement in Middle Eastern and North African communities?


message 19: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Tinea wrote: "Yes, I'm really shaken that I haven't heard of this before; I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the region. It's one of those topics where I sort of had heard maybe sometime that slavery ..."

i'm still thinking, Tinea!

and i think we are supposed to have a separate thread for book discussion, but in the meantime i just want to say that AJ Stream is discussing slavery in Mauritania today. It should be online later or people can check twitter for the hashtag #ajstream to see today's discussion.


message 20: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (new)

Tinea (pist) | 406 comments Mod
We're on the same wavelength right now. I came online to post some more info about slavery in Mauritania.

If you don't have time to read the book, I really urge folks to check out some of these links.

* CNN has a photo essay that covers some of the same ground as Silent Terror (journalists visit Mauritania to report firsthand and background information about slavery there)
* UK-based Anti-Slavery International continues to support the work of SOS Esclaves, which Cotton documents in his book
* Here's a link to the Al Jazeera broadcast Marieke describes


message 21: by Liralen (new)

Liralen | 180 comments Mod
Tinea, that photo essay is fascinating. Thanks for posting.


message 22: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (goodreadscombookslinger1) | 47 comments Where is the discussion of the Mauritania book, Silent Terror? I can't find the thread.


message 23: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
We haven't set it up yet, Sharon. Sorry...we did a weird experiment this year to have a reading period and a discussion period, so we have been setting the discussion thread up in the second month. But I think this experiment is not a success. So I will set up a thread this evening and come link to it from here.


message 24: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (goodreadscombookslinger1) | 47 comments Tinea wrote: "We're on the same wavelength right now. I came online to post some more info about slavery in Mauritania.

If you don't have time to read the book, I really urge folks to check out some of these li..."


Tinea wrote: "We're on the same wavelength right now. I came online to post some more info about slavery in Mauritania.

If you don't have time to read the book, I really urge folks to check out some of these li..."


Tinea wrote: "We're on the same wavelength right now. I came online to post some more info about slavery in Mauritania.

If you don't have time to read the book, I really urge folks to check out some of these li..."

Thanks to Tinea for posting supplemental links, especially the CNN photo essay.


message 25: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i am so so so so sorry, but here, finally is our discussion thread,


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