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The Lost Girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner

The Lost Girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner

This book follows the around-the-world (ATW) trip of the three authors. The women were friends living in New York that greatly enjoyed traveling. On one backpacking trip in Argentina, the talked about how much they wanted to take a year off and back pack around the world. When they got back to the city, all their lives began to show signs of strain and the need for drastic change – changing jobs, boyfriend issues, not performing well at work. So they follow through on their plan and book their trip. They travel through Peru, Brasil, Kenya, India, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. Throughout their trip they hike the Inca trail, volunteer, train to be yogis, bungee jump, and surf, just to name a few activities.

The book is a series of remembrances (I don’t really want to say journal entries because they aren’t) of the different places they visit. Each chapter is written by a different woman, sometimes in the same place as the previous chapter or in a different one. Each chapter focuses on the experiences the girls had and the emotional journey each went through on the trip. They talk about funny accidents, depressed spirits, cultural awakenings, fighting among themselves, and the influence each place had on them. Through it all you connect with the women on a personal level. It’s a little hard to tell the difference between them at first as you read, but as you move through the book, you are able to tell who’s writing the chapter based on the emotions, fears, loves, and desires of the writer. You learn bits about each country they travel to, but the bulk of the story focuses on how their experiences changed, influenced, or validated themselves and their feelings in some way.

For a travel novel, I would have liked to learn more about the countries they visited. They move through countries quite quickly, but spending at least a week in a country would give you plenty to discuss about the culture. They, unfortunately, only give bits and pieces that link to the story they are telling. Some of the emotional issues they were working through got a little old to hear about after a while because it was the same issue over and over. For the most part, however, they kept the drama and over-use of emotion to a minimum. There was a lot of emotional discovery and decision making that women in their twenties are going to have an easy time relating to. Also, the variety in personalities makes it easy to connect with at least one of the women. For me, I was able to connect with Holly the best.

You learn quite a bit about working as a writer in New York, as well as living in New York from the book. You learn about the emotional struggles women face. You learn interesting tidbits about backpacking, hostels, and traveling for an extended period of time. You pick up small things about the different countries they visit. You discover the kindness of strangers and joy in embracing differences.

For a travel memoir, it was really good. For a book about culture and traveling, eh, I know there are better books. For a book about women, it’s very good without being filled with drama, drama, drama. I can say that I enjoyed reading it, but will probably not read it again. I would recommend though to anyone looking for a light book on travel or an interesting book for a change of pace. Also, anyone interested in travel or culture would most likely enjoy it. Probably, not a great read for a guy though, they’d most likely find it boring.

My rating:

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However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy

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However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy

I was quite shocked by how much I enjoyed this book. I usually don’t go for biography or book about Africa, but this one called to me and I read it. I think it is a book everyone should read at least once in their life.

The story follows the life of Molly Melching and how she brought the knowledge of human rights to numerous villages throughout rural Senegal. Molly is originally from the U.S. and moved to Africa in her early twenties. She stayed because of how welcome and at home she felt, something she had never found anywhere else. After studying and working as a translator, she became obsessed with how to get education into the rural areas of Senegal where it was gravely needed to help maintain and encourage the improvement projects that were being put in place by NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization). She had several incarnations of organizations before founding Tostan – primarily setting up a local community center through the local Peace Corps then working with her (then) husband to establish a local education program for the village of Saam Njaay. Between these two organizations, she developed a teaching model that met the needs and cultural traditions of the rural community, allowing them access to basic information such as reading, writing, and hygiene.

When she finally broke out on her own and developed Tostan, she used what she had learned to develop an educational program that brought knowledge to the participants. Not only did the program teach reading and writing, but they were taught in connections with core ideas set up in modules – hygiene, basic health, leadership skills, and project development. After gaining success, she was prompted by receipt of funding to include a module on human rights and women’s health, including the dangers of FGC (female genital cutting) which was a widespread practice in Senegal. This last module was developed and presented with great care to be non-judgement and non-confrontational, simply presenting information that described the rights of women as outlined by the United Nations and gave the women information on their bodies they greatly wanted to know.

This module had an unexpected result. As the women grew in their belief in their rights and themselves, the communities started to change as women demanded their rights. The most stunning result was the decision by different villages to discontinue FGC, which caused anger and dismay with other villages. This led to the discovery of social norm connectivity and how members of a group will decide together.

As an educator and a woman, I found this book highly informative. Not only did I get an overview of life in Senegal, but I learned more about my rights as a woman and innovative educational practices I hope to someday use in my classroom. I thought it did a wonderful job of not only discussing Molly’s life, but also the different things she and her assistants learned over the years and the amazing stories shared by the brave women and men in Senegal who are attempting to bring an end to FGC in the country, and to spread the knowledge across borders.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially women and educators. It also gives you a glimpse into a life we cannot imagine in the United States and is a great way to learn about a mindset completely foreign to us. It definitely ranks on my “needs to be read” list for someone who will take the time to appreciate what they can learn from it.

My rating:

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