Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

Title: Unbowed: A Memoir
Author: Wangari Maathai
Copyright: September 4, 2007
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Format: book Pages: 368

I first saw this book at my local library and checked it out. I once again did what I have been doing lately and kept renewing it to the libraries limit and then hijacked the book for a few additional days while I waited for the book to arrive in the mail (I had to own a copy after I started reading it.) I’m not proud of holding on to books late but this bookworm had to do what she had to do!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country. Infused with her unique luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story of courage, faith, and the power of persistence is destined to inspire generations to come.

My Thoughts:

This book is such a very important read and even more so as we approach Earth day and the ‘March for Science’ across the country. I liked the way she told her story. She provided the readers with her background by going back to her childhood growing up and working the land with her family. Her story demonstrates how you don’t need to have a fancy education or be wealthy to make a difference in the world. One quote from her book sums it up:

“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them, even more, respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us to do what we can to protect it. As I told the forresters and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.”   – Wangari Maathai

Although Wangari was able to pursue her education at a time that most girls were not in Kenya, she points out that her idea did not require her degree, it just helped the process. For her ideas for planting trees took hold and people began to help realize her dreams.  I love that although she received her degree in the United States, she didn’t choose the path to try to stay here, she chose to go back home and help her country. She ended up starting the Green Belt Movement in 1977 in response to her observation of the decimation of the local trees in her country and the negative effects it had on the land and the people of Kenya. She realized that the British colonists were cutting down vast amounts of trees for lumber to sell and that it had a tragic effect on the land. It compromised the integrity of the soil and caused droughts.  The Kenyan women told her of streams drying up, their food supply diminishing and as a result of the logging, they had to walk even farther to find wood for fencing. So Wangari proposed that the women take the seedlings and plant them to grow more trees.

The story is so amazing. It talks about her eventual marriage and the demise of their union and her on-going struggle with the Kenyan government, who saw her efforts as a threat.  Many times, I couldn’t believe how brave she was to keep pursuing her dream.  She endured imprisonment and death threats but continued her very important work. Did I also mention that she won the Noble Peace Prize in 2004? Yes, she was that amazing.

Wangari Maathai is someone we should all learn about because it is so relevant everywhere, not just in Kenya. In the photo above I am holding up the picture book version of her story that I read to Apollo. It was breathtakingly stunning and held it’s own in keeping up with all of the many important facts of Wangari’s story.

I leave you with one more amazing quote from the book:

“A tree… tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded, and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.”

I highly recommend this book and I give it 4 1/2 butterflies for not only delivering a great story and message but concluding with ways to help. As I too will leave you with the link to The Green Belt Movement so that you can see the great work that continues even after her death.

Happy reading friends!

Belinda

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