In Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram, British journalist Isha Sesay transports readers to the remote Sambisa Forest in northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram is suspected of holding abducted schoolgirls. Through the stories of four girls and their parents, Sesay brings attention to the 276 mostly Christian students who were violently taken from their boarding school in the village of Chibok in 2014. She highlights not only their continuing plight--many of the girls are still in captivity--but also the vast and brutal impact of the militant Islamist group's terrorism on Africa's psyche.
Nigeria is one of Africa's most powerful nations and has the continent's largest economy. It is also the birthplace of Boko Haram. Sesay helpfully examines the confluence of social factors that gave rise to the extremist group, including the struggles between Muslims in the north and Christians in southern Nigeria that are a legacy of British colonial rule. Her tenacious reporting since the Chibok abductions has helped keep up pressure on the government of Nigeria to find the missing girls.
Sesay was born in Sierra Leone and educated in both the U.K. and West Africa. Readers will be moved and inspired by her passionate advocacy for the education of girls in Africa as well as her friendship with and continued support of the 21 freed schoolgirls who were fortunate enough to come home. Sesay accompanied the girls back to Chibok in 2016 with a promise to keep their stories, and the stories of their friends still held captive, alive. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer