Even though I just started grad school last week, I’ve made a commitment to also read some books about Darfur for Natasha’s effort to raise money for aid in that area. For each book I read and review, she will be donating one dollar to the cause. This of course is in addition to the many other ways she is raising money this month, including writing her own blogs, counting each comment she receives and encouraging her readers to donate a penny for every page she reads this month. This may all sound like small amounts, but with the number of readers she has, and the number of pages I know she reads in a month, this can really add up to a decent sum of money.

Today I picked up four books from my public library about Darfur. I thought I’d share them with you, in case you’re interested in the cause but aren’t sure where to start. Perhaps a brief summary of the books I’m planning to read will help you to find one you’d enjoy.

First on my list is The Devil Came on Horseback: bearing witness to the genocide in Darfur by Brian Steidle and Gretchen Steidle Wallace. This book was on my list anyway, but after reading Natasha’s review of it yesterday, I’ve moved it up the stacks. I highly recommend checking out her post on it and watching the videos she included. If you don’t have time for that though, here’s a brief description of the book:

Where is the horror? Where is the outrage, asks Brian Steidle, bewildered by the lack of international response to what is clearly the genocide of Darfur’s black population. As an ex-marine and member of the African Union’s monitoring team, he witnesses firsthand the government of Sudan’s attempt to systematically eliminate all but the Arab population. Echoing Steidle’s personal narrative, Jeff Cummings’s voice moves from naïve hope that something can be accomplished to anger at the senseless slaughter and surprise at its political complexity. Deeply frustrated at the inaction and even indifference of the rest of the world, his contract up, Steidle grabs his laptop, his notebooks, his camera, and heads for home, hoping to alert the public and awaken its moribund conscience.

Next up is The Translator: A tribesman’s memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari. From the cover:

I am the translator who has taken journalists into dangerous Darfur. It is my intention now to take you there in this book, if you have the courage to come with me.

The young life of Daoud Hari–his friends call him David–has been one of bravery and mesmerizing adventure. He is a living witness to the brutal genocide under way in Darfur.

The Translator is a suspenseful, harrowing, and deeply moving memoir of how one person has made a difference in the world–an on-the-ground account of one of the biggest stories of our time. Using his high school knowledge of languages as his weapon–while others around him were taking up arms–Daoud Hari has helped inform the world about Darfur.

Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman, grew up in a village in the Darfur region of Sudan. As a child he saw colorful weddings, raced his camels across the desert, and played games in the moonlight after his work was done. In 2003, this traditional life was shattered when helicopter gunships appeared over Darfur’s villages, followed by Sudanese-government-backed militia groups attacking on horseback, raping and murdering citizens and burning villages. Ancient hatreds and greed for natural resources had collided, and the conflagration spread.

Though Hari’s village was attacked and destroyedhis family decimated and dispersed, he himself escaped. Roaming the battlefield deserts on camels, he and a group of his friends helped survivors find food, water, and the way to safety. When international aid groups and reporters arrived, Hari offered his services as a translator and guide. In doing so, he risked his life again and again, for the government of Sudan had outlawed journalists in the region, and death was the punishment for those who aided the “foreign spies.” And then, inevitably, his luck ran out and he was captured. . . .

The Translator tells the remarkable story of a man who came face-to-face with genocide– time and again risking his own life to fight injustice and save his people.

I’ve also checked out Not on our Watch by Don Cheadle. I was surprised to see that this book had been written by a celebrity, but after reading the Publisher’s Weekly review of it I think I understand a little bit better. Here is the description from Publisher’s Weekly:

Over the past five years, youth groups, religious organizations, politicians and individuals have responded to the crisis in Sudan in increased numbers. This book is a guide for these already involved, as well as those who are interested in taking action, or speaking out against the mass killings that continue to occur in the country’s Darfur region.

Coauthored by Cheadle, actor and star of the film Hotel Rwanda, and Prendergast, senior adviser of the International Crisis Group, the book is a pastiche of practical information, instructions, memoir and history. As a handbook for budding activists, it’s informative and, at times, inspiring. The combination of charts, lists and first-person accounts create a simple and reasonable path to action. But as a source for information about the conflict in Sudan, the book falters.

The history is neither clear nor succinct, and there is not much of it. Furthermore, although Cheadle and Prendergast’s personal anecdotes are entertaining, they overshadow the few anecdotes about the Sudanese living through the crisis. The book’s most interesting moment, besides the useful advice on how to get involved, is its delving into the government’s excuses for inaction.

And, lastly, I’ve checked out Darfur: A Short History of a Long War by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal. Hopefully this one won’t read like a textbook. I mainly checked it out because I think it’s important to know a bit of the history behind the current conflict. I think it will help me to be not only more informed, but possibly will help me to understand better how this crisis came about.

A brief description from Amazon: “Darfur traces the origins, organization and ideology of the infamous Janjawiid and other rebel groups, including the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement. It also analyzes the confused responses of the Sudanese government and African Union. This thoroughly updated edition also features a powerful analysis of how the conflict has been received in the international community and the varied attempts at peacekeeping.”

OK then, I hope this helps and I’ll be sure to post my reviews as I finish the books. I doubt I’ll finish them all this month though (sorry Natasha!), but I do plan to get through them.