Mighty Be Our Powers

5 of 8
Mighty Be Our Powers
256 pages; Beast Books
At her high school graduation party, beautiful 17-year-old Leymah is surrounded by music, family, friends and a glittering pile of gifts (including gold bracelets and a pair of rare Dexter boots). Six months later, her country, Liberia, is torn apart by tribal conflicts and overrun with rebels and government troops who rape, loot and kill at random. Separated from her family and struggling, Leymah gets involved with an older, seemingly safe man, who gives her plenty of beatings and four kids, at one point leaving her to sit in a hospital corridor nursing her newborn preemie, with no money for even an incubator. Worse, however, is her emotional destruction—emblemized by her own children, who, in imitation of their father, begin to call her "stupid" and refuse to share any of their rice with her. "When you move so quickly from innocence to a world of fear, pain and loss," she writes, "it's as if the flesh of your heart and mind gets cut away, piece by piece, like slices taken off a ham. Finally there is nothing left but bone."

Broken, Leymah somehow finds the strength to start training as a social worker (studying at night in bed with her babies, reading by candlelight) and rises to become the leader of the women of Liberia, who, as a group, overturn their powerless roles and march their country toward peace with a national strike that includes denying their husbands lovemaking until the fighting stops. So many memoirs focus on the story of a single person who inspires us all with her story and language, but Mighty Be Our Powers is a different, larger, more universal kind of book that tells the story of both Leymah and an entire generation of girls-turned-women-turned-world leaders. Read it—and be inspired.
— Leigh Newman