Beneath the Tamarind Tree
A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram
“It is no accident that the places in the world where we see the most instability are those in which the rights of women and girls are denied. Isha Sesay’s indispensable and gripping account of the brutal abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram terrorists provides a stark reminder of the great unfinished business of the 21st century: equality for girls and women around the world.”— Hillary Rodham Clinton
The first definitive account of the lost girls of Boko Haram and why their story still matters—by celebrated international journalist Isha Sesay.
In the early morning of April 14, 2014, the militant Islamic group Boko Haram violently burst into the small town of Chibok, Nigeria, and abducted 276 girls from their school dorm rooms. From poor families, these girls were determined to make better lives for themselves, but pursuing an education made them targets, resulting in one of the most high-profile abductions in modern history. While the Chibok kidnapping made international headlines, and prompted the #BringBackOurGirls movement, many unanswered questions surrounding that fateful night remain about the girls’ experiences in captivity, and where many of them are today.
In Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Isha Sesay tells this story as no one else can. Originally from Sierra Leone, Sesay led CNN’s Africa reporting for more than a decade, and she was on the front lines when this story broke. With unprecedented access to a group of girls who made it home, she follows the journeys of Priscilla, Saa, and Dorcas in an uplifting tale of sisterhood and survival.
Sesay delves into the Nigerian government’s inadequate response to the kidnapping, exposes the hierarchy of how the news gets covered, and synthesizes crucial lessons about global national security. She also reminds us of the personal sacrifice required of journalists to bring us the truth at a time of growing mistrust of the media. Beneath the Tamarind Tree is a gripping read and a story of resilience with a soaring message of hope at its core, reminding us of the ever-present truth that progress for all of us hinges on unleashing the potential of women.
Praise For Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram…
— Hillary Rodham Clinton
“Isha Sesay has given us a gift in this account of the Stolen Chibok Girls of Nigeria. More than reportage, it is equal parts memoir, thriller, and inspirational call to arms for the defense of the rights of women and girls, and the civilization that honors them. I am proud to call her my friend, and I hope you give yourself the gift of her book.”
— Meryl Streep
“A gorgeously-written story of sisterhood and survival, Beneath the Tamarind Tree is Isha Sesay’s masterpiece: a riveting and hope-filled account of a horrific event, filled with stories of bravery and verve, and fortified by Isha’s unparalleled access and instinctual humanism as a reporter. By lifting the distinct voices of these brave young women—and telling a largely untold story as only she could tell it—this book is essential reading, as inspiring as it is informative.”
— Don Lemon
“Rich details and dedicated, courageous reporting create a powerful tale of faith, love, and loss.”
— Kirkus (starred review)
“Great for readers who want to learn more about African gender politics, the history of Boko Haram, and women in the media.”
— Library Journal
“The most intimate portrait yet of what happened to the Chibok girls between abduction and rescue. […] Sesay has done yeoman work in earning the trust of the girls, enabling her to recount their experiences with rare empathy.”
— Boston Globe
“This book matters because it tells a gut-wrenching story, as relatable as a story about he deranged gunmen who come into our children’s schools in the United States again and again. […] At its core, it is a story about mothers and daughters, and its emotional spine is the story of Sesay’s relationship to her own mother.”
— The New York Times Book Review
Dey Street Books, 9780062686671, 400pp.
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
About the Author
Isha Sesay is an award-winning journalist who led the CNN team that won a 2014 Peabody Award for coverage of the missing Chibok girls. She hosted CNN NewsCenter, headed the network’s Africa reporting for ten years, and received a Gracie Award for Outstanding Anchor for her coverage of the Chibok girls’ story. She is the founder of W.E. (Women Everywhere) Can Lead, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing and empowering teenage girls to become Africa’s next generation of leaders. Of Sierra Leonean descent, Sesay grew up in Britain and holds a BA with honors in English from Trinity College, Cambridge University. She lives in Los Angeles.