Title: Gogo Mama
Author: Sally Sara
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Feminism, Non-fiction, Strong women, True stories
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
5th sentence, 74th page: If you go to fetch for water or firewood and people start running, you have left your children and run alone.
I’M SITTING IN A $30 HOTEL ROOM IN UGANDA WONDERING WHAT THE HELL I’VE GOT MYSELF INTO. THIS IS DAY ONE OF GOGO MAMA. I DON’T EVEN KNOW ALL THE NAMES OF THE TWELVE WOMEN WHO WILL FILL THIS BOOK; ONLY THE JOURNEY WILL REVEAL THEM.
Gogo Mama is a journey of discovery into the lives of a dozen very different African women. They include the survivor of a brutal attack by Ugandan rebels; an Egyptian belly dancer turned movie star; an escapee from slavery in Ghana; Zanzibar’s most famous living diva; a former child soldier from Liberia; a grandmother fighting AIDS in South Africa; and a pioneering midwife from Timbuktu. They speak with complete candour both about their astonishing experiences and about the way they live now, in some of the most hostile and exotic parts of the continent.
While introducing these inspiring women, award-winning journalist Sally Sara takes us on a trip across Africa, in all its complexity – from the frenetic townships of Johannesburg, to a clifftop village in Mali; from the horror of the frontline of war in Sudan, to the glamour of Cairo nightclubs.
Gogo Mama is a vivid, illuminating and haunting composite picture of an extraordinary land, in the words of the people who know it best.
This story left me feeling… humbled. Just humbled. These twelve women will touch you in a way that you can’t imagine, and their lives set amidst the beauty of Africa are guaranteed to linger in your mind’s eye for years after you close the cover. It is just an incredibly powerful, moving and honest set of stories. The truth is met unflinchingly and without hesitation. Yet, in all of Sara’s interviews, there is no anger and bitterness, rather, a simple acceptance for what has been suffered and an optimism for what they may face in the future.
From a survivor of the Rwandan genocide to a world-famous belly dancer, each of these twelve stories is different and unique. They are insights into another country, another world. One which I can’t even fathom. The range of stories, from the downright depressing, to the uplifting are a fantastic window through which to view such a varied continent. There is no feeling of repetition or even judgement throughout the stories. Sara manages to shine the light on every single experience, use the nuances and feelings from every single interview to weave a textured tale that you will never forget.
Yet, it isn’t just the tales of Sara’s journey and the women whom she had the pleasure of encountering that makes Gogo Mama such an enthralling novel. It is the vivid descriptions of the African countryside, the daily activities that are undertaken in some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world. Picturesque, yet war-torn. The vividness and beauty of the countries plays a haunting note to the tales which are spun by women who, against all odds, have triumphed in their own lives and found a way to carve out their own reality.
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