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One year of Stronger than Death: Reviews Matter

Reviews are really important. I didn’t quite understand that before. But reviews and star rankings on Amazon, Goodreads, Indie bookseller pages…they matter in how the sites rank and place books. They help get eyes on books and help readers decide whether or not to invest time and money into a story.

So please, if you haven’t already, consider leaving a review at one of these places. And while you are there, leave a review for other books you’ve read. They don’t have to be five-star reviews either. I won’t feel bad if you give it your real, honest opinion. Also doesn’t have to be long. I’m a fan of leaving 1-2 sentence reviews. Just don’t be a jerk.

There used to be a notice on Stronger than Death’s Amazon page that the book had “issues” reported. This is because when it was first published, the wrong book had been loaded into the Kindle content. Meaning, everyone who pre-ordered or purchased the Kindle book for the first few days found a different book inside (a great book, but not the one they wanted).

This issue was fixed. A LOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG time ago. Like the first week. But still, that stupid flag remained and I hated it. I think it has been finally removed, but once in a while it does show up again.

Leaving a good review can help conquer reader doubts about the book after they see that flag.

Here are some, from short to long:

“Could not put this book down. Very interesting true story of what it means to be selfless in a selfish world.” Mac girl

“I think everyone should know what it looks like to really love your neighbor as yourself, which is what Annalena did and in the greatest humility.” Deb Brunsberg

This is a hard, but inspiring read. It both horrifies and uplifts. The author did a fabulous job researching and compiling a well-written book on the life of a woman I had never heard of, but will never forget. This is a woman every bit as heroic as Mother Theresa but who insisted in living a life of quiet service to those most in need, without the recognition and accolades she so deserved. This would be a fabulous book for book clubs or for anyone wanting to know more about the deprivations and hardships in countries such as Somaliland. Kudos to the author for both bringing this story to light and for having the courage to live in such a hostile land herself. I feel like my review really doesn’t do this book justice, but it should be required reading to help our children understand some of the difficulties that region faces, to help adults understand the politics and turmoil of that area, to raise awareness in politicians, and to inspire each of us to live a more selfless life.” WiWise

“Interwoven throughout this biography is historical and cultural facts about the people that call the Horn of Africa home, but it is also a memoir of sorts as Rachel shares how she and her family were affected by Annalena’s murder. On top of all this, there is some journalist reporting, as Rachel shares her own thoughts and questions regarding some of the decisions that Annalena made. I believe that if you are interested in the Horn of Africa, humanitarian aid work, female genital mutilation, or Muslim/Christian relationships than you should read this book.” MD Mauer

“If you want to be challenged, if you want to love more, if you want to read how love changes lives, read this book. Annalena wouldn’t want to be made into a celebrity. She fought that her whole life. And she definitely wouldn’t want to be made into a saint. But she shows us how to live as a human fully — loving with all we have and loving every second of our days and nights.” Jane Hinrichs

“This book is deeply involving, and at times totally stark and grim, but it gives a vivid and authentic picture of a woman who was completely dedicated to the concept of service in love. Annalena perceived her call to serve the poor totally, with utter involvement and boundless determination. Although she was not a doctor, she was a magnificent organizer and meticulous record keeper, and turned out to be uniquely qualified to institute a “DOTS” (Directly Observed Therapy Short-Course) tuberculosis program among Somali nomads. It was, however, her personal charisma that provided the necessary motivation which convinced the patients to commit to and continue with the course of treatment that led to the extraordinary cure rates the program accomplished. The medical success story, though, was continually interrupted by war and acts of atrocity, and was eventually reversed when the scourge of TB was compounded by the HIV/AIDS invasion from other nations following the disruption of the Somali social structure and the increased political tension after the American reaction to the 9/11 attacks and the rise of ever more militant Islam. Although Annalena never proselytized, and indeed at one point had FGM performed on her own adopted Somali daughters in order to not challenge the prevailing beliefs and customs, she remained Christian in outlook and to some extent in observance. This inevitably led to the eventual resentment of her presence and success which caused her death in October of 2003.

Author Rachel Pieh Jones does a magnificent job of maintaining balance and integrity in her narrative. She is honest about the failings both of those who attempt to bring aid to the war-torn areas of the world, as well as the gory and corrupt local conditions which often stymie those efforts. Annalena was, of course, totally unique in her refusal to be limited by the bureaucracy of many self-serving groups, both religious and otherwise. She had a small coterie of backers in Italy whom she knew personally, and was to some extent supported by the WHO, but refused to let her efforts be subsumed and diluted by fund raising endeavors. The way she circumvented much of the bribery and graft that was considered obligatory at the time is a truly fascinating sideline. Though this book is very painful at times, it is also a deeply moving, rewarding and inspirational story.” Trudie Barreras

Buy the book!

Plough: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Indiebound: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Barnes and Noble: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Amazon: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

One year of Stronger than Death: Unforgettable Conversations from Book Tour

One.

In Washington D.C., I was preparing for my first ever book tour event. I felt nervous, out of place, uncertain of what to expect, and a little bit like a fraud – who would actually come out to hear me talk?! And then…friends, strangers, and even a family member showed up. Friends from my church in Minnesota, a young woman who had spent her entire life in Djibouti and whose mother helped me translate throughout my second pregnancy, David Brown journalist with the Washington Post, and my brother-in-law who came bearing gifts of snacks, a plant, and skull socks (don’t ask, I’m not sure!). At the second event, the former ambassador to Djibouti came and we took a selfie together. She lived in Djibouti before I had even heard it existed, but we know and love some of the same people.

Two.

In Colorado Springs I got to meet Dimity McDowell of Another Mother Runner. I totally had my own little fan girl moment when she came to my book event! I wanted her to sign my book, what a treat. Also Amy Young, author of so many wonderful books and whom I had not yet met in person. Internet people are real people, internet friends are real friends, go figure!

Three.

In Chicago worlds collided as I met for the first time the editor of some of my very earliest published work, in EthnoTraveler, and friends came from Indonesia, many friends from Djibouti showed up, and more internet people turned real.

Four.

In Minneapolis. Ah, Minneapolis. Afro Deli hosted the most wonderful book launch party ever. We packed out the place. I had hoped a few loyal friends and family would come and almost 100 people turned out. Chef Musa and Kahin were incredibly generous and joyful and it was such an honor and privilege to be welcomed into that space, for this book.

White Minnesotans told me at many events, how much they appreciated this book for how it opened up the world of their Somali coworkers, neighbors, and friends in a new way. They said it helped them think of conversational questions and topics, and that they hoped it could be a bridge to deeper relationships. Somali Minnesotans told me the exact same thing, in reverse.

At one event, two Somali Americans sat in the back, and we enjoyed a question and answer period so much that afterwards, they took my phone number, then called that night and said, “We have to keep talking!” I was leaving the country in two days so we had a quick breakfast in the morning and have stayed in touch. What I loved about our conversations is that we understand so much about each other – the American and the Somali parts – and barely needed extra explanations.

I was invited to speak to a class at St. Olaf University in southern Minnesota. When we lived in Somaliland, my kids played with a neighbor girl. When we fled, my daughter cried, specifically about not seeing this girl ever again. In 2018, this girl turned up at St. Olaf University in Minnesota as an exchange student. I invited her to come to my event and we had the most incredible conversation, as both of us heard stories from the other that we had never heard before about the aftermath of Annalena’s murder and our sudden departure. She said something I will never forget, and I loosely quote it, “We used to think foreigners were dangerous and shouldn’t live in our town. But because of Annalena, even though she was a white Christian, we now are open to letting other foreigners, even Christians, Americans, white people, anyone, live among us, because we have seen her love.” What a testimony to the power of how Annalena’s practical service has opened the way for ongoing partnerships and relationships.

At my last in-person book event, a Somali man arrived early and we started chatting. He said he grew up in Wajir, Kenya, where Annalena had initially worked. He knew her, and Maria Teresa, and others quite well. He remembered the Wagalla Massacre, after which he had fled the region and eventually the continent, to settle in Minnesota. Then he said, “You know how Annalena smuggled the list of names of the dead out of Wajir during the massacre? The person who carried those names out, that was me.” I almost fell over. He started to tell the story of getting that piece of paper that would expose the government’s crimes, from the town to the capital.

Through all these conversations, one thing stood out. I had the immense privilege of writing this story. But writing it wasn’t about earning Annalena glory (she would turn over in her grave) and certainly not for earning me glory.

It was for these stories, for honoring these memories, for forging these new connections, for moving into dialogue and conversation and relationship.

 


Plough: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Indiebound: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Barnes and Noble: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Amazon: Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

What’s Happening at Do Good Better?

Not blogging so much. I’ve moved almost all my writing and work to Do Good Better and to Stories from the Horn. Do Good Better is an engaging conversation, interactive and full of links to important stories in the world of humanitarian, mission, and development work. Stories from the Horn is my personal newsletter in which you’ll find exclusive essays and links to news from the Horn of Africa.

Here’s what we’ve covered in the past two weeks at Do Good Better.

And every Friday we have a beautiful thread of good things happening all over the world. From big things to simple things, all are worth celebrating and all are helping us find joy in a troubled world.


Do Good Better.

 

I started another new thing.

I would love for you to join me in doing good better.

Are you a wanna-be do-gooder?

Do you want to help without hurting but aren’t sure HOW?

Are you confused about how to embody your faith in the world?

Are you tired of hot takes and throwing stones and want to dig deeper into untangling the messy middle of faith, development work, cross-cultural relationships, and humanitarian expatriate life?

Me, too.

We can do better but we need to help each other.

So, I started this new thing because…why not?

Compelled to create, maybe? Stuffing the coronavirus despair perhaps? Sure, whatever.

Do Good Better.

Check it out.

We’re going to have hard and challenging conversations over there because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m pretty sure you don’t know what you’re doing either. But we both feel compelled to keep on trying, to keep on doing something, to dream of a better world and hope that we might have a part to play in inaugurating and celebrating it.

Come on over and subscribe!

It lives at Substack and is a subscription-only newsletter. For now, it is free but soon will be moving behind a paywall because producing things, sending newsletter, maintaining the website, these things are not free.

I would love for you to join me because I need your input and wisdom as we wrangle.

Covid19 Is In This Town, Lyrics

This song is to the original The Other Side, from the film The Greatest Showman. The video will be posted below ours.

Lucy was supposed to perform music from this movie for her choir concert that was cancelled. It seemed appropriate to make another music video. She wrote all the lyrics herself.

And so we present to you…the Jones’ Public Service Announcement. A music video in which rebellious mom wants to go outside but her daughter won’t allow such dangerous behavior.

Will mom get out? Or will the daughter win the day and convince her to stay inside?

You’ll have to watch to find out (apologies that the mother in this video cannot sing to save her life. Let me suggest you listen to the daughter).

The lyrics are below so you can sing along.

 

Lyrics:

Right here, right now

You need to hear me out

Don’t want to chase you down

I need to warn you

You stay at home

Even though you’ll be alone

Into your walls you really need to stay in

Don’t be rebellious its really for the best

And if you’re hungry eat a bunch of candy

You can play it sensible, get TP and canned beans

Or you can risk it all and see.

 

Don’t you dare to go outside

And stay away from everyone in sight

The disease is in the air and its starting to spread around

Covid19 is in this town

Cause you can go and get sick

Or you can be healthy

Stock up on food and wash for 20 seconds

Oh yeah you can’t keep going around

Covid19 is in this town

 

Okay my friend you wanna keep me in

Well I hate to tell you, but it just won’t happen

I can’t stay at home

I gotta go outside

I’ll just go mad in the house I stay in

I’ll use handsoap and even wear a mask

But I’m not going to stay

not eve-en o-one day

Wha-at will I do     if I’m stuck with you

No way that it’ll ever be

 

I’ve got gotta go outside

And I talk to everyone in sight

Though corona’s in the air I just can’t be alone

I really cannot stay at home

You can be alone

I’m gonna go free

Not gonna stay if I know I won’t be happy

Oh yeah I’m gonna walk around

I really cannot stay at home

 

Now is this how you’d like to spend your days

TV and misery, video games

 

If I let myself loose it’ll probably be bad

I’d get the disease and have to breathe from a bag

 

But you would finally live a little, finally laugh a little

Just let me give you the freedom to dream

 

But it’ll make you cough and cause your AKING

Don’t wanna help the virus in spreading

Not a disease that seems worth getting

But I guess I’ll leave that up to you

 

Well its intriguing but to stay would be so boring

What are some things I could do with my time wisely

 

Fair enough you’ll want a little bit of action

It’s a really good time to work on fractions

 

That’s school, that’s boring. I’d like something fun to do

 

Why not just go ahead and try an instrument or two

 

Puzzles?

 

I’d do crafts.

 

Baking

 

Legos

 

Fun!

 

Don’t you dare to go outside

And stay away from everyone in sight

The disease is in the air and its starting to spread around

Covid19 is in this town

Cause you can go and get sick

Or you can be healthy

Stock up on food and wash for 20 seconds

Oh yeah you can’t keep going around

Covid19 is in this town

 

So you can go and get sick

Covid 19 is in this town

 

Or you can be healthy

You’ve convinced me to stay home

 

Don’t cough or sneeze

At Any single time

 

Covid 19 is in this town

 

 

And the original

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