- Misha Glenny, The Guardian: “Although Pisani cannot really explain all of Indonesia’s et ceteras, she does project a more optimistic and warmer picture of a fascinating country than most outside commentators. For anyone about to visit the place, her book is an essential companion.”
- Joshua Kurlantzick, The New York Times: “For the most part, [Pisani] remains content to drift back into anecdotes rather than pull them together…. Pisani falls back on easy clichés about Jakarta, reform, and the population itself…. Another opportunity to know the unknown giant is lost.”
- Ashlee Betteridge, DevPolicy blog: “Part adventurous travelogue, part investigation into nationbuilding, Indonesia Etc. is easy and entertaining to read. For those who have spent some time in the country, you will likely find yourself nodding along with the author’s observations and experiences. For those who know little of our neighbour, it’s a worthy and engaging overview.”
- The Economist: “There are very few good books in English to help the general reader to understand it. Ms Pisani’s is probably the best. Into a beautifully written, richly entertaining account of a year spent travelling around the archipelago, she weaves a deep knowledge of the country acquired first as a reporter there, and then as an epidemiologist.”
- Ben Bland, Financial Times: “Occasionally, she overreaches in her pursuit of the colourful phrase (she describes a town on the island of Flores as smelling of “stale sex” after the meat from a whale hunt is hung out to dry) and her insistence on “just saying yes” to new experiences can give her the air of a worthier-than-thou backpacker. But her regular comic mishaps, punchy insights and journalist’s eye for the telling detail more than compensate.”
- Pallavi Aiyar, L.A. Review of Books: “A rollicking good adventure that knits together a complex of stories and insights, in a feat that rivals the knitting together of the sprawling nation it describes…. To read Indonesia, Etc. is to grow rather fond of both author and country.”
- Jim Della-Giacoma, New Mandala: “Pisani has produced a book on Indonesia that is as fresh for the novice as for those who have a lifetime of experience in the country.”
- Kirkus Reviews: “A brave, lively writer opens up a wondrous, changing nation.”
Rwanda is an exciting country with a tragic history. Before a recent work trip there, I asked the Twitterverse for book recommendations about the land of a thousand hills. Here is what I heard back, along with a few of my own. (Asterisks are on the ones I’ve actually read.)
On Rwanda today
- A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It*, by Stephen Kinzer (my review) – A short history of Rwanda, with a major focus on post-genocide. Kinzer is very sympathetic to the current government. It’s easy to read and a good introduction to modern Rwanda. The author – Kinzer – wrote a defense of Paul Kagame in the Boston Globe a few weeks ago.
- Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship, by Anjan Sundaram – Documents limitations to free speech in Rwanda today.
- Business, Politics, and the State in Africa: Challenging the Orthodoxies on Growth and Transformation, by Tim Kelsall — Uses Rwanda as one (of three) case studies on modern African economic growth.
- Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World, by Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond – Super-sympathetic analysis of government support for business in Rwanda. I started it but didn’t finish it. (On Twitter, I received one recommendation for this but also one critique.)
- The Orderly Entrepreneur: Youth, Education, and Governance in Rwanda, by Catherine A. Honeyman – “investigates the impact and reception of the Rwandan government’s multiyear entrepreneurship curriculum, first implemented in 2007 as required learning in all secondary schools” (from Amazon blurb)
- Rwandan Women Rising, by Swanee Hunt – “While news of the Rwandan genocide reached all corners of the globe, the nation’s recovery and the key role of women are less well known. In Rwandan Women Rising, Swanee Hunt shares the stories of some seventy women—heralded activists and unsung heroes alike—who overcame unfathomable brutality, unrecoverable loss, and unending challenges to rebuild Rwandan society. … Rwandan women did not seek the limelight or set out to build a movement; rather, they organized around common problems such as health care, housing, and poverty to serve the greater good.” (from the Duke University Press blurb)
- Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence, edited by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf – “Remaking Rwanda is the first book to examine Rwanda’s remarkable post-genocide recovery in a comprehensive and critical fashion. By paying close attention to memory politics, human rights, justice, foreign relations, land use, education, and other key social institutions and practices, this volume raises serious concerns about the depth and durability of the country’s reconstruction.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe, by Gérard Prunier – “follows the 1996–2002 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo through many bewildering twists and turns.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Women and Power in Postconflict Africa, by Aili Mari Tripp — “gender disruptions that occur during war” (some on Rwanda in here). Review by Alice Evans.
On the genocide
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda*, by Philip Gourevitch – I found this well-written and powerful. It was the first book I read about Rwanda, and it was perfect for a novice, giving an intro to the history and then the genocide itself.
- Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak*, by Jean Hatzfeld (my review) – Hatzfeld interviewed a series of genocidaires while they were in prison. Insightful work.
- The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda, by Scott Straus – Social science approach.
- Genocide Lives in Us: Women, Memory, and Silence in Rwanda, by Jennie E. Burnet — “This clear and engaging ethnography of survival tackles three interrelated phenomena—memory, silence, and justice—and probes the contradictory roles women played in postgenocide reconciliation.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by Roméo Dallaire — “For the first time in the United States comes the tragic and profoundly important story of the legendary Canadian general who ‘watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect.'” (from Amazon blurb)
- And a couple of novels:
- A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, by Gil Courtemanche — “A moving, passionate love story set amid the turmoil and terror of Rwanda’s genocide.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron — “Running the Rift follows the progress of Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life.” (from Amazon blurb)
Many thanks to Adolfo Avalos-Lozano, Sarah Baird, Danielle Beswick, Erika Edwards Decaster, Alice Evans, Andrew Gerard, Seva Gunitsky, Mike Holmes, Robert Marten, Jonathan Mazumdar, Gaby Saade, for Elisabeth Turner for suggestions.
[Updated 8/23/2017 at 2:30pm]
- “Josephine, who cooked every day for the Taylor soldiers who raped her,” and
- “a terrified Mary Warner [who] strapped her four-year-old son on her back and ran from place to place, finally pressed up against a gate outside the United Nations compound, desperately seeking shelter,” and
- Louise Yarsiah, who was leading a group of women in prayers for peace when Charles Taylor’s security chief showed up. Yeaten’s soldiers drew their guns, and Yarsiah’s women kept praying. Ultimately, the soldiers stood down.
Salaam, from Busia to Kampala, from Maceió to Recife), and Andrew’s vivid descriptions took me back to my own bus rides. I remember riding a matatu in rural western Kenya: When the bus got a flat tire, there was no jack, so the conductor asked all the male passengers to lift the minibus while he and the driver changed the tire. Evans writes: “To travel is to know the unfairness of the world, time and time again.” It’s true, and yet traveling by bus also — for a brief period — brings people from a wide range of social groups into contact. Evans spins that into a compelling, moving narrative. I wouldn’t miss this travel memoir.
…you’re voting on the next book, and you get into a debate over whether you should choose the winner based on first-past-the-post, instant-runoff, or the Borda count. All this despite Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem telling us that no tallying system will be perfect.
Did I say too many economists? I meant just the right number.