Cover image for Mama Koko and the hundred gunmen : an ordinary family's extraordinary tale of love, loss, and survival in Congo
Mama Koko and the hundred gunmen : an ordinary family's extraordinary tale of love, loss, and survival in Congo
Shannon, Lisa, 1975- , author.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : PublicAffairs, [2015]

Physical Description:
vii, 213 pages : maps ; 22 cm
Mama Koko and the hundred gunmen -- Epilogue, or a tale of many termites -- What you can do before setting this book down -- Appendix: Congo and Joseph Kony.
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ1805.5 .S525 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
HQ1805.5 .S525 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HQ1805.5 .S525 2014 Adult Non-Fiction New Materials
HQ1805.5 .S525 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HQ1805.5 .S525 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Driven by her family's devastating losses, Congolese expatriate Francisca Thelin embarks, with human rights activist Lisa J. Shannon, on a perilous journey back to her beloved homeland, now under the shadow of one of Africa's most feared militias--Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. With gunmen camped at the edge of town, Francisca is forced to face a paralyzing clash between her life in America and her family's rapidly evaporating world--and the reality that their rush to her family's aid may backfire.

Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen weaves Francisca's journey with stories of the family's harrowing encounters with gunmen and tales from their past to create a vivid, illuminating portrait of a place and its people. We hear of Mama Koko's early life as a gap-toothed beauty plotting to escape her inevitable fate of wife and motherhood; of Papa Alexander's empire of wives, each of whom he married because she cooked and cleaned and made good coffee; and of Francisca's idyllic childhood, when she ran barefoot through the family's coffee plantation gorging herself on mangoes and fish that "were the size of small children."

Offering compelling testimony to the strength of the human spirit and the beauty of human connection in the darkest of times, Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen also explores what it means and requires to truly make a difference in an unjust and often violent world.

Author Notes

Lisa J. Shannon is a human rights activist, writer, speaker, and author of the acclaimed book A Thousand Sisters . She is the founder of Run for Congo Women, the first national grassroots campaign in the US working to raise awareness of the forgotten humanitarian crisis in Congo, and has spearheaded many other major media and human rights campaigns for Congo and Somalia. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Human-rights activist Shannon traveled to the Congo in 2008 with Congolese expat Francisca Thelin, who was returning to check on her family, including the indefatigable Mama Koko. Shannon's goal was to obtain first-person reports she could bring back to the U.S. of the brutality suffered in the region from Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. At first the two women work their way through interviews like seasoned journalists, but the details quickly take their toll, especially on Thelin, who learns of the brutal beatings and deaths of many relatives. Shannon is dumbfounded by how easily the LRA came to dominate the region, thanks to the corruption of the Congolese army and the obliviousness of the UN. People come, they just talk, says Thelin's uncle. They just come for the big show. Shannon's struggle was to make her work more than a show, and she succeeds brilliantly. This compelling narrative is not easily forgotten, nor are the many people whose stories she collected. This is a valiant record of the testimonies of vital witnesses; readers will not be able to look away.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2015 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Shannon (A Thousand Sisters) covers an extremely important and sensitive period of terrorism in the Congo that resulted from the guerrilla warfare undertaken by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The author became involved in raising awareness about the Congo during a period of personal challenge, and her initial interest developed in response to a 2005 Oprah television episode about violence against Congolese women. Here, she describes her travels to the Congo in 2010 with Francisca Thelin, who grew up in the Congo; her book is more a reminiscence than history, journalism, or cultural exploration. Shannon's description of Thelin's relationship with her husband, Kevin, in the 1980s and early 1990s is one of the stronger portions of the book. Thelin's family endures terrible atrocities at the hands of the LRA, both on their coffee plantation near Duru and in Dungu, where they owned a store. Shannon, introduced as Kevin's sister though she is no relation, uses Kevin's status in the community to gain trust and conducts a series of interviews with Francisca's family members about their experiences with the LRA and the Congolese Army. The writing is uneven, and Shannon's techniques for gathering the family's stories seem unethical. The only historical context for the tale is provided as an appendix that cannot effectively contextualize such a complex political and historical situation. Verdict While more writing about this region is desperately needed, Shannon's work does not fill that gap.-Candice Kail, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.