October 8, 2019

What They Meant for Evil | A Book Review

*I was provided an advance copy of this book by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my rating of this book. All opinions are my own.

What They Meant for Evil is a personal account from a Lost Girl of Sudan. Rebecca Deng tells a heartbreaking story. Trying to escape a violent civil war Rebecca finds herself in a refugee camp that houses thousands. She lives in this camp for most of her childhood. Conditions are terrible and they are not properly cared for. But Rebecca rises above her past to make a place for herself in this world that tried to destroy her. This is a story of redemption and forgiveness. And the truth that your past does not define your future.

This book is not a guide to grieving or working through your past. It's just the journey Rebecca had to take to get from damaged and frightened girl to confident if still broken, woman. She tells of the things that happened to her through the lens of the girl she was when it happened. Her story is real and honest.

After getting her master's degree Rebecca began working with a program that helps women from war-torn countries in Africa work through their own trauma. It was going through this program herself that made her realize how badly she had been traumatized as a child. Even though it was hard to relive what had happened to her, it was vital for her to work through it.

"...I learned how to grieve, question, take my pain to the cross of Jesus, and ultimately forgive."

Rebecca also addresses the indisputable right we have to stand up and say no to something we don't want to do. In Dinka culture, it is very common for girls as young as 14 to be given to a man in an arranged marriage. Usually, the father will arrange this but in Rebecca's case, because she was an orphan, her uncle arranged this marriage. She was only 15 years old.

Ultimately, this is how she ended up in America. She applied for the Lost Girls and Boys program the UN was running to get away from this marriage. She knew she was worth more than this and she fought for herself in a culture that told her every day she was not in control of her life.

In America, with help from her adoptive parents, she graduated from high school and college. She has spent most of her adult life helping people from Sudan recover from the trauma of civil war.

Rebecca's story was eye-opening for me. I feel that reading stories like hers allow me to see what it is like for people living in war-torn or third world countries. Places where their basic human rights are denied over and over again.

I have much to be thankful for. I'm thankful for Rebecca and her story. I'm thankful that she keeps fighting for those who have been overlooked and beaten down. She shines as an example of what people can do if only they are given the chance. Her story is heartbreaking but also wonderful. The theme of redemption is woven throughout and the importance of forgiveness is paramount in healing from any kind of trauma.

If you want to read books similar to What They Meant for Evil I can recommend They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky. This story is told by four Lost Boys of Sudan. I read it a few years ago when I was in college and I liked that one just as much as this one.

I gave "What They Meant for Evil 4.1/5 stars based on my own personal rating scale.

Happy reviewing,