Updated: Sep 5
DISTURBED IN THEIR NESTS BY ALEPHENSION DENG AND JUDY A. BERNSTEIN
Why is it that children who knows nothing about oil, race, or religion die of what they can't even define? A tearful and inspiring memoir.
"Why was our government hunting and killing families - women and children who had done nothing but live? Why were they shooting at me? I'd had many desperate days, but this was the most unforgettable. An excerpt from page 145.
Disturbed in Their Nests is a powerful story that held me captive until I finished indulging my relatable emotions in it. It is a dreadful, humorous, uplifting, and transformational story of survival, quest, and destiny. At some point, I was left agape trying to figure out how some scene unfolds, how realistic the journey was, and the obstacles encountered.
This book detailed the life of the Author Alephension Deng escaping the horrible Sudan war, and his eventual journey to San Diego, told alongside himself and the co-author, Judy A. Bernstein. I was first introduced to the bitter experience of Alepho and his brothers in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, reading this part brought me to tears as I couldn't imagine the level of trauma they'd gone through, how they coped with starvation, trekked a thousand mile in the African wilderness, how some of them were killed by Lion and Crocodile, how they ate mud and drank urine in the absence of water. I paused in my contemplation while reading this part, it had me resonating on the effect of war, and its inhumane consequences on innocent victims.
This, however, was followed by the hope of relocating to America through the International Rescue Committee. I sensed hope, rejection, expectations, and earnest desires among the boys. Alepho was keen enough to paint imagery of what life in the camp looks like through his raw-arresting transcendent writing. Here, I could sense a traumatized lad on the verge of hopelessness and freedom, with an undying passion to attain higher education. It eventually dawned, his name and that of his brother were among those who would be traveling to America. They were lucky, but that was the beginning of another journey entirely.
Life in America seems not to be the same as they were told back in the camp, "Wasn't food, water, house, money, and education supposed to be free?" These innocent boys were desperate to make a life on their own, get an education and support their families, and other people trapped in the middle of the war back home. Then, come Judy, I love to think of Judy as a destiny helper, a compassionate individual, one with an exceptional traits, selfless, resilient, and committed. She played a significant role in the lives of the boys, her unwavering concern for the lost boys was so palpable, that I come to think of what the journey would have been for the boys if they'd met another mentor in place of Judy, would they still have been able to get to where they were? Would the journey have been different, or was Judy divinely ordained to guard their journey in America? I, myself who had suffered countless quests to attain a university education, wanted someone like Judy, in my life.
One might propose that the image of Africa wasn't well painted in this book, especially from Alepho's description and point of view, but it is apparent that within each line, Alepho was telling his own story, and experience of civilization, moving from Dinka in Sudan to San Diego in America. However, I love his fierce illustration of war, which is something that is not only particular in Sudan alone, but also in other African countries that had had an experience of a brutal war. Part of his story reminded me of the Biafra war and the millions of children who died in its course. Reading through the lamentation of the war victims made me imagine the trauma and the lives that had been lost to war as a result of bad governance in Africa. The death of those innocent souls reminded me of the thousands of Nigerians who had died even in the course of the Boko Haram Insurgency.
I love to think as a philosopher, and as such, this book brought me to swim in the ocean of emotions and unending introspection. I asked myself, "What if Alepho hadn't survived it?" Certainly, it's my utmost joy that he survived, but how about those who died in the course of the war? The children whose lives and destinies were truncated with bullets and bombs, the poor ones whose lives were shortened by wild animals, and "war-invoked" diseases. I felt like writing an elegy to mourn the soul of the departed, but would my lyrics bring back the dead? I rest my case and murmured, "Why is it that children who knows nothing about oil, race, or religion die of what they can't even define?" This shows how important we need to preserve our land against war, it calls for the drastic realization of the effect of war, and how it ought to be avoided.
Disturbed in Their Nests can be considered as a resource for the preservation of Sudan's history, it reminded me of Chinua Achebe's account of the Biafra war, There Was A Country. I love the transition from both authors' perspectives, the switch of the storytelling techniques, with wonderful characters like Cliff, Joseph, Paul, Benson, Lino, Daniel, James, Benjamin, and many more. These characters are amazing, and their scenarios made me paint image in my head that the book reads as if I was watching a movie. With a blend of sorrowful event, humor, challenges, and glory. The chapters are so emotional, and I could derived lots of morals and values from it, especially from Judy's perception, but I will restrict from revealing further in an attempt to keep this review spoiler free, but I'd love to say that this book owns my sincere praise, it is so engrossing, captivating and astounding. I recommend this book to lovers of nonfiction and literature at large.
Reviewed by Peter Okonkwo