Book Review of "Long Walk to Freedom"

Nelson Mandela began writing his autobiography while imprisoned in 1974. It was confiscated by authorities but he resumed writing after being released in 1990, with help of friends who aided him in remembering the details.

“Long Walk to Freedom” is a very thick book. I admit that I skimmed through the political pages because it would take a long time to read. I mostly wanted to read about his childhood, marriages and family life.

His life has indeed been a long walk. He went from being born in a typical African village, to getting a degree, getting involved in a cause, being imprisoned and eventually becoming a leader.

As a child after his father’s death, he was sent to be raised by a family who could send his to school. That must have been hard for his mother but she wanted him to have a future.

He told of being circumcised, running away from home with his friend to escape an arranged marriage, his marriages and children. The destiny for him was a difficult one. His family did not get his presence because he had to save a nation.

It is painful as a Christian to know that at one time, well-meaning missionaries treated other races as inferior in their attempts to help. We’ve seen it with Native Americans, Australians and Africans. Still, the Methodist schools that he attended gave him the education that many children are not afforded. The man who raised him was returning a favor that Nelson’s father had done for him when he was alive. This man was able to send him to there.

Nelson Mandela was not his birth name. It was the English-Christian name given to him on his first day of school. His father died when he was nine years old.

As a young man, an arranged marriage was announced by his friend’s father. He had already chosen the brides for the two young men and paid the dowries. They ran away from home and got into several scrapes. When the other young man received news of his father’s death, Nelson told him he should return home. By this time, Nelson already felt a calling for his own life that he couldn’t ignore.

His first marriage ended when his wife became a Jehovah’s Witness and they just believed in two different concepts. His second marriage ended after his release for the good of the country because her route had become too controversial.

I watched a documentary about his second wife, Winnie. Although her path later took a rough turn, I believe in the beginning, she was wanting to help her husband by being involved. She herself was imprisoned for a period of time. The separation was very hard on her.

I read in other sources that he later married his third wife who had been married to a prior leader before becoming a widow.

Although Nelson’s family paid a difficult price, his sacrifice changed a nation and the world.

"A Long Walk to Water" Book Review

Linda Sue Park helped Salva Dut share his experience as a “Lost Boy” of Sudan who returned home to build a well for his village.

Salva was eleven years old when he began the journey on foot with thousands of other children who were forced out of their villages after soldiers killed their parents. The violent reality included shootings, being eaten by lions and crocodiles, drowning and being abducted to be child soldiers.

The children traveled through Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. They lived in refugee camps for several years. Salva took interest in learning English so an aid worker taught him. Eventually as a young man, Salva was one of the group permitted to come to the United States.

After a few years in the United States, Salva received word that his father was still alive but very ill due to not having clean water. Salva began his dream of being reunited with his father and finding a way to solve the water problem. With help from many people organizing and raising funds, his dream came true.

Salva returned home and was reunited with his father. He was told his mother was still alive but it was too dangerous to travel to where she was. He only got to see his father because he was in a hospital.

Salva put together a team and drilled a well in the village. His term was that no one could be refused water. The village people had to come together for the benefit of all. Later, he began drilling wells in other villages.

The ending brought the fictional part of the story together with his true story. The fictional story was about a young Nuer girl named Nya about twenty years later who benefitted from the new well. She noticed that the man who gave them the clean water did not have tribal markings on his forehead. She assumed he was from her tribe. She asked someone and was told he was Dinka, not Nuer. She wondered why he would help them. She got up the courage to approach him and said, “Thank you for bringing us the water.”

Girls were now able to attend school because they no longer had to walk for water.

This story is precious to me because of the Sudanese young adults in my life. One is my friend and his family. The other is my daughter in law. My friend is Dinka and my daughter-in-law is Nuer. I love them both.

My friend’s dream is to build a school building for the children in his village. I want to help him. We will need a lot of help. I’m sure each one of the “Lost Boys” have dreams. Although telling their stories is painful, one by one, we can help them build a brighter future for the next generation.