Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: A People Tall and Smooth

book cover

A People Tall and Smooth:
Stories of Escape from Sudan to Israel
by Judith Galblum Pex

ISBN-13: 978-0-98-189293-1
Trade Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Cladach Publishing
Released: April 15, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
"At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty [to Mount Zion] from a people tall and smooth-skinned." -Isaiah 18:7

The popular beach town of Eilat, at the southernmost tip of Israel, is visited daily by international tourists who want to visit the warm waters of the Red Sea. But when hundreds of tall, dark Africans show up to stay, curiosities are piqued. Where did they come from? Why are they in Eilat of all places? When a group of them enter The Shelter hostel run by John & Judy Pex, answers to these questions unfold.

These are the very real stories of how and why five refugees escaped the genocide in South Sudan and Darfur, made their way through Egypt and smuggled into Israel, the only country their Islamic government prohibits them to go. They fled across the border with nothing but the clothes on their backs. No food. No money. No papers. No possessions. Just thankful to be alive.

All of the author's proceeds from the sales of A People Tall and Smooth will go to projects for the Sudanese refugees.

Advance Praise for A People Tall and Smooth:

"Although much has been written about the Lost Boys of Sudan who resettled in large groups in the United States beginning in 2000, very little, if anything, has been written about the countless Sudanese who fled alone to neighboring countries. Judy Pex breaks the silence, unfolding the perilous journeys of Sudanese refugees. For many it was a choice that came at tremendous cost: imprisonment, separation from their children and spouses, hunger, brutal beatings and death. It's a story of resilience, determination and the choice for freedom--at all cost."
--Joan Hecht, award-winning author of The Journey of the Lost Boys

My Review:
A People Tall and Smooth "A People Tall and Smooth" is the combined autobiographies of 4 Christian Sudanese refugees from South Sudan, 1 Muslim Sudanese refugee from Darfur, and the Israeli author (who happens to be a Messianic Jew). The author explained how she ended up in Israel running The Shelter Hostel and how she and her husband first meet the Sudanese refugees.

After helping these refugees for a while, she asked several of the refugees to tell her their story for this book. (They spoke the story into a tape recorder, the author transcribed the material and edited the sometimes disjointed stories so that they were in chronological order, then she confirmed with the person that she'd written up their story correctly.) As the person tells his or her story, the author inserted some comments into the text (using another font so you could tell that the "speaker" had changed). These included her thoughts about how different their lives were from hers or brief stories about the other refugees that the main story reminded her about.

The stories were well-written and easily kept my attention. While the stories were vivid, they weren't graphic. I keep feeling that all Americans (and people from other 1st world countries) need to read stories like these so we can get a realistic perspective on our own lives. While the author did give an overview of the conflicts in Sudan, we mainly get an individual's personal view of the conflict and how it affected them. We also see the problems that refugees face after they survive the conflict and survive fleeing from it.

A black and white map showing the areas under discussion was included as well as some color photographs of the Sudanese refugees. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
People from over one hundred nations intermingle in Israel. Besides Jews from Kazakhstan and Kansas, Burma and Belgrade, Calcutta, Congo and places in between, over a million tourists every year add to the mosaic. Include in the mixture two hundred thousand legal and illegal workers from countries such as China, Thailand, Philippines, Nepal and Ghana, and it’s clear that the average Israeli is used to seeing faces of all colors and shapes.

In 2007, however, a new group appeared on the scene whose appearance and status was unlike any other till this time. We began to notice men, women, children and babies on the streets in our town of Eilat who were exceptionally black and strikingly tall.

“Where do they come from and who are they?” My husband John and I asked ourselves. “What language do they speak?” Having managed The Shelter Hostel in Eilat on the Red Sea since 1984, we are used to interacting with diverse people groups and were eager to meet these new arrivals.

Our questions were answered when a tall, dark man walked through our front gate one morning. “I’m Gabriel, a refugee from Sudan,” he introduced himself in perfect English.

Read more from chapter one.

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