A former CNN reporter who helped bring international attention to the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram returns to the case with this account that draws on interviews some of the girls, who recount the night Boko Haram attacked, their years in captivity, and their daring tales of escape.
In Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Sesay combines the released Chibok girls' stories with her own journalistic experiences to powerful effect. Sesay is a briskly opinionated writer, and from the first chapters Beneath the Tamarind Tree presents a forceful combination of reportage and social analysis ... Where Beneath the Tamarind Tree sets itself apart is in its exploration of the Nigerian government and the international media's complicity in silencing the Chibok girls' voices, and those of their parents and of the Nigerian activists fighting for their release.
In Beneath the Tamarind Tree, the award-winning CNN journalist Isha Sesay offers the most intimate portrait yet of what happened to the Chibok girls between abduction and rescue ... The book’s most gripping sections relate the hardships the girls endured ... Sesay’s own odyssey, though somewhat self-congratulatory, is also riveting—a primer on the hazards and challenges of reporting in a country embroiled in insurrection, with a government suspicious of aggressive media coverage. The writing in Beneath the Tamarind Tree occasionally veers toward the melodramatic. But Sesay has done yeoman work in earning the trust of the girls, enabling her to recount their experiences with rare empathy.
The most arresting chapters are those in which Sesay takes us to the girls. We are there, with them, on that hot April night in their schoolyard ... Beneath the Tamarind Tree offers an unsatisfyingly potted history of Boko Haram. It doesn’t give you a textured view of how the group gained a foothold, or how it was persuaded to release half the kidnapped girls. The book paints a drive-by picture of Chibok. Far too much effort is put into explaining why this story matters. This is a common pitfall for authors who are trying to chronicle the lives of others to Americans, and it’s unfortunate ... There is still another to be told about the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. That story should be told by a Chibok girl.