I chose to read Helon Habila’s book The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria because I, like many, followed the #BringBackOurGirls campaign with great interest and sadness. More than 270 girls taken in the middle of the night from their school by extremists– every parent’s worst nightmare.
While April 14, 2014 was when the kidnapping of the Chibok girls took place, but this book has a much wider scope and longer view. Reading this book as an American with little to no knowledge of the history of Nigeria, I appreciated Habila’s emphasis on the rise of Boko Haram and the political climate which enabled it to exist.
This slim volume is just over 120 pages, but packs in narratives from parents of the girls, people in the community, and clergy members, besides including information from other outside sources. When we finally get to the narrative from some of the escaped girls, however, even Habila notes that it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. This book focuses much more heavily on what is after the colon in its title than what comes before it.
I have to admit I’m of two minds here. I think this book is an excellent, well-written and insightful primer on Boko Haram and conditions that make it possible for extremist groups like it to form. However, I wouldn’t recommend this to a person interested only in the #BringBackOurGirls movement. Because the identities of girls who have escaped are so important to protect, you won’t learn much new about that. The climate surrounding the incident, however? Rich material, well-explored.
The Chibok Girls: Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria by Helon Habila
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Available for Purchase here
Thank you to NetGalley, who gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.