Book Review: The Translator by Daoud Hari

Daoud HariWe have been numbed in this age of twitter and breaking news feeds. 147 students are murdered at a university in Kenya, we tweet our outrage, call in to talk shows and then quickly move on to the big sports events the next day. That way the gory details do not really affect us and we feel less guilty about our helplessness. But we are not helpless as Daoud Hari shows in his simply written memoirs. He writes as if he is sitting by a fire right next to us and relating the stories in a long night, well after dinner. He talks about a childhood grounded in the practical reality that fear brings. It is not the fear of burglarly that allows you to comfort yourself by installing beams around your property. It is a real fear of the thud thud thud of helicopters approaching your village and spraying it with bullets. It is the reality of fleeing in to the caves while the men “defend” the village and losing your beloved hero and older brother. Thereafter it is about escape, it is the reality of life as a refugee in a foreign land where the fear is not just some xenophobic attitudes in the office or by the police. It is the reality of imprisonment in a foreign land, of deportation. Then the book turns resolute. The resolution of a young man, turned adult all too quickly, deciding to do something about the fear and despair. At huge personal risk, Daoud goes back to his country, over and over again with journalists and news crews to show the world the horrors of state sponsored terrorism against a people who simply want to live off their land, raise their animals, marry, grow their families and visit each other’s villages. If you are outraged by Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIS and the drones, you must read this book. You will see beyond the statistics of numbers of deaths from news bulletins. You will understand that there are real lives being disrupted at a huge scale from Africa to Asia. You will see how it is always possible “to do something about it” and that we do not always have to say “someone” has to do something. You could be that someone and put your twitter handle to better and more effective use.

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