stronger than death

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One year of Stronger than Death: Love and Service During a Deadly and Contagious Pandemic

Covid has made me think about tuberculosis many times (I also wrote about the way it connected with my cancer treatment here). Contagious, deadly, different people’s bodies have different responses, the feeling of being made a pariah or a leper, fear, societal changes, new vocabulary, life-long repercussions even when cured, global, no great treatment (yet), no vaccine (yet), racial dynamics, economics…

The overlaps could go on and on. And there are also the medical workers saving lives, risking their own lives, choosing to care for the vulnerable, and doing this in the middle of, in some places, broader violence and danger.

Like Annalena Tonelli did with tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa.

If you want to read about how a woman and a community faced their own “pandemic”, read this book. Read about how she consistently chose love and service over fear and rejection. Read about how she kept on choosing joy and life, even during war and terrible loss.

One reader asked if I hold Annalena as an idol. I don’t think I go to that extreme but I do admire, respect, and feel challenged by her. I know her weaknesses and the ways she frustrated some of the people around her. I know she wasn’t perfect and I don’t even come close to emulating her my own life. But I do find an example in her, an inspiration, ideas for how to live a little bit better, how to love a little bit more.

Every day this week, the 1-year birthday for Stronger than Death and the 17-year anniversary of Annalena’s murder, I will share experiences that I’ve had over the past year in talking about the book.

I’ll tell you about some mistakes and Lord knows I hate mistakes. About the value of reviews and how that little yellow “this book has issues” button that used to be on the Amazon page made me so mad. I’ll tell you about some of my favorite experiences while on book tour, share some reviews, share some reader concerns/issues, and give an update of the impact of the book. Be sure to check back in each day this week for these little tidbits.

And if you haven’t read the book yet, check it out! Also leave a review! Look at how excited I am, I’m using exclamation points!

*affiliate links

The Legacy of Annalena Tonelli, Carrying It On

Find Stronger than Death at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

I love hearing how readers are moved and challenged and inspired by Stronger than Death. Some responses have even moved me to near tears.

I spoke at an English language school for adults in Djibouti. After my talk and an engaging Q/A time, students gathered in small groups to continue the discussion. One young man wrote his thoughts out and read them to the group. I asked if I could take a photo of his words and he gave me the paper. This is what he wrote:

“A good person is someone who displays love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, humility, patience, and she was faithful, and endures all things. Annalena was someone who displays self-control and considers others more important than herself. Annalena was a good listener and someone who displayed integrity and dignity and accountability toward others.”

This was so beautiful and it was incredibly meaningful that he picked up on these character traits. The conversation around the tables included things like how hard it can be serve, when other people tell you to not bother, or how disappointing it can be when service is rejected. We talked about how we can all take one little step, like picking up one piece of trash. Or how we can sit beside someone who is sick and be a loving, caring presence, even if we don’t have money to help treat their illness. And how we can hope to motivate others by our example.

It was lovely.

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Here is from another reader. People have asked how I think Annalena would react to having a book written about her and I hope Jodie is right:

“I finished it with the sense that Annalena would be proud – even as one who didn’t like all the attention – because you portrayed her in her humanness as well as her saintlikeness.” Jodie P.

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Someone else told me they finished the book with tears in their eyes and with ideas for how to be more aware of students in her classroom who might need a little extra affection or attention.

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Another person told me she would use this book to help explain some of her Somali history and culture to her American coworkers.

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Thanks to all for your feedback, for reading, and for sharing.

Don’t forget to leave a review and be sure to share the book with your friends and family! Maybe a great Christmas gift…!

 

Find Stronger than Death at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

 

 

Publication Day(!!!!) and Why This Story Matters Right Now

I used four exclamation points in the title.

Let that be a sign unto you.

Publication date…today!

Find Stronger than Death at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

 

Why this book, why right now?

Has anyone else noticed how broken and sad and angry the world feels lately?

I feel it in my bones, a hunger for hope, love, compassion, goodness.

But, I don’t want those if they come through avoiding the hard things like racism, elitism, cruelty, harassment, oppression, diseases, stigmas.

This story required me to write straight into the hard.

Like being a white woman in Africa. Like engaging in violence on female bodies and fighting violence on female bodies. Like war and poverty and humanitarian failures.

But also, this story showed me the way to finding that hope and goodness I’m desperate for. It isn’t in sweeping hard conversations under the rug, it is in diving right into them with humility and humanity.

That is why now. Because I believe you are also desperate for hope, goodness, and light. You don’t want to retreat into the corner, surrounded by people just like you. You’re willing to cross boundaries and to learn how to love and live better in the diverse world that is our real world.

You’re willing to go to hard places and be changed there.

You want a love that is stronger than fear.

You want a life that is stronger than death.

Find Stronger than Death at Amazon,  Barnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

Books Are Not Babies and Will You Have a Party for Me?

I cringe at the comparison of books to babies.

I am not pushing a book out. No one is cutting a book out. Ebook, paperback, hardcover, donn’t matter. Not coming out my body.

I do not expect my books to call me even after they have existed for 18 years or more.

If I put a book on the roof of the car and forget it there and drive away, I won’t really care.

I don’t need to buy my books a passport or hold their hair back while they barf when they have the flu.

Unless I get a world record size paper cut, I do not expect my books to leave scars on my skin.

Still.

Let me tell ya something.

When I realized I would not be anywhere near my book on the day it officially publishes, I had a one second flash, one second, of the moments after I gave birth to twins. I had the not-awesome experience of birthing one child vaginally (with no pain medication) and one child via c-section (with all the pain medication) because of an emergency.

I glanced at the first baby as I was getting a spinal tap and then she was gone. I glanced at the second baby while I was getting sewn up and then he was gone. And then my husband was gone. I had just pushed out a baby and the docs chopped out a baby, doubling the size of my family in the span of 42 minutes and I was all by myself. I didn’t even know where they were. (Later I found out, one was in the NICU with my husband and one was in a crib in the nursery).

So, as annoying and utterly insufficient as the books to babies comparison is, I confess I thought of it as my book’s publication date looms.

There are loads of copies of the book out in the world. People are reading it. People will be reading it as of October 1.

And I HAVE NOT EVEN SEEN IT.

I haven’t touched it.

I haven’t cracked that lovely hardcover spine.

I haven’t held it up and danced around the room.

I haven’t taken any photographs with it.

I haven’t cut into a box of books and laugh-cried while my family rolled their eyes.

And yet you, if you’ve ordered it, will have it in your hands! I’m so jealous.

You know how people say publishing a book doesn’t change your life? Well for me, it literally will not change my life. I will go for a run, go into the office at school, hang out with my husband, miss my kids, and wonder what you’re thinking as you crack open that spine and start to read.

I have a favor to ask.

I will have a launch party (and it will be super fun and in Minnesota and please come if you live nearby, I’ll send all the details later and I’ll have another in Djibouti and if you live nearby please come) and I will get my hands on a book. Eventually. But not yet.

 

Will you launch for me?

Will you party for me?

Will you take a photo with the book for me? And post it in all the places so we can celebrate together?

Will you put a review up on Amazon or Goodreads for me?

I need you guys to celebrate pub day for me.

That would be super duper amazing.

If you’re the hashtagging type, use #strongerthandeath

Love, Fear, and Vocation

Quick link: A Love Stronger than Fear

Plough Quarterly published a condensed excerpt from Stronger than Death for their issue on vocation.

Did you know:

“A person being treated for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis typically swallows up to 14,600 pills & endures 240 painful injections. After all that, the chance of being cured is only 50%. Join our patients and doctors in asking for shorter, more tolerable treatments to be developed.”

Annalena Tonelli worked for decades to treat tuberculosis among Somali nomads and before that, treatment required even MORE pills and LONGER treatment times.

You can read a bit about her experience with TB and her struggle between feeling a call to care for the sick and a desire to be alone with God in this article.

Amid a volatile mix of disease, war, and religious extremism in the Horn of Africa, what difference could one woman make? Annalena Tonelli stayed anyway – and found a way to beat history’s deadliest disease.

Check out the full piece here.

 

Find the book at AmazonBarnes and Noble,  and IndieBound

 

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