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In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away

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When a reporter for The New York Times uproots her family to move to West Africa, she manages her new role as breadwinner while finding women cleverly navigating extraordinary circumstances in a forgotten place for much of the Western world. In 2015, Dionne Searcey was covering the economy for The New York Times, living in Brooklyn with her husband and three young children. When a reporter for The New York Times uproots her family to move to West Africa, she manages her new role as breadwinner while finding women cleverly navigating extraordinary circumstances in a forgotten place for much of the Western world. In 2015, Dionne Searcey was covering the economy for The New York Times, living in Brooklyn with her husband and three young children. Saddled with the demands of a dual-career household and motherhood in an urban setting, her life was in a rut. She decided to pursue a job as the paper's West Africa bureau chief, an amazing but daunting opportunity to cover a swath of territory encompassing two dozen countries and 500 million people. Landing with her family in Dakar, Senegal, she quickly found their lives turned upside down as they struggled to figure out their place in this new region, along with a new family dynamic where she was the main breadwinner flying off to work while her husband stayed behind to manage the home front. In Pursuit of Disobedient Women follows Searcey's sometimes harrowing, sometimes rollicking experiences of her work in the field, the most powerful of which, for her, center on the extraordinary lives and struggles of the women she encounters. As she tries to get an American audience subsumed by the age of Trump and inspired by a feminist revival to pay attention, she is gone from her family for sometimes weeks at a time, covering stories like Boko Haram-conscripted teen-girl suicide bombers or young women in small villages shaking up social norms by getting out of bad marriages. Ultimately, Searcey returns home to reconcile with skinned knees and school plays that happen without her and a begrudging husband thrown into the role of primary parent. Life, for Searcey, as with most of us, is a balancing act. She weaves a tapestry of women living at the crossroads of old-fashioned patriarchy and an increasingly globalized and connected world. The result is a deeply personal and highly compelling look into a modern-day marriage and a world most of us have barely considered. Readers will find Searcey's struggles, both with her family and those of the women she meets along the way, familiar and relatable in this smart and moving memoir.


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When a reporter for The New York Times uproots her family to move to West Africa, she manages her new role as breadwinner while finding women cleverly navigating extraordinary circumstances in a forgotten place for much of the Western world. In 2015, Dionne Searcey was covering the economy for The New York Times, living in Brooklyn with her husband and three young children. When a reporter for The New York Times uproots her family to move to West Africa, she manages her new role as breadwinner while finding women cleverly navigating extraordinary circumstances in a forgotten place for much of the Western world. In 2015, Dionne Searcey was covering the economy for The New York Times, living in Brooklyn with her husband and three young children. Saddled with the demands of a dual-career household and motherhood in an urban setting, her life was in a rut. She decided to pursue a job as the paper's West Africa bureau chief, an amazing but daunting opportunity to cover a swath of territory encompassing two dozen countries and 500 million people. Landing with her family in Dakar, Senegal, she quickly found their lives turned upside down as they struggled to figure out their place in this new region, along with a new family dynamic where she was the main breadwinner flying off to work while her husband stayed behind to manage the home front. In Pursuit of Disobedient Women follows Searcey's sometimes harrowing, sometimes rollicking experiences of her work in the field, the most powerful of which, for her, center on the extraordinary lives and struggles of the women she encounters. As she tries to get an American audience subsumed by the age of Trump and inspired by a feminist revival to pay attention, she is gone from her family for sometimes weeks at a time, covering stories like Boko Haram-conscripted teen-girl suicide bombers or young women in small villages shaking up social norms by getting out of bad marriages. Ultimately, Searcey returns home to reconcile with skinned knees and school plays that happen without her and a begrudging husband thrown into the role of primary parent. Life, for Searcey, as with most of us, is a balancing act. She weaves a tapestry of women living at the crossroads of old-fashioned patriarchy and an increasingly globalized and connected world. The result is a deeply personal and highly compelling look into a modern-day marriage and a world most of us have barely considered. Readers will find Searcey's struggles, both with her family and those of the women she meets along the way, familiar and relatable in this smart and moving memoir.

30 review for In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    Wish I could say I enjoyed this, but I didn't. The incongruity between the chick-lit tone and the gravity of the situations Searcey was reporting on rubbed me the wrong way. The culture shock of moving from NYC to Senegal was probably more entertaining to someone who hasn't lived in a place with tenuous infrastructure. The juggling work and family and realizing that no, you can't have it all and we all make compromises is real. The struggle to let go and let her husband raise the children, no yo Wish I could say I enjoyed this, but I didn't. The incongruity between the chick-lit tone and the gravity of the situations Searcey was reporting on rubbed me the wrong way. The culture shock of moving from NYC to Senegal was probably more entertaining to someone who hasn't lived in a place with tenuous infrastructure. The juggling work and family and realizing that no, you can't have it all and we all make compromises is real. The struggle to let go and let her husband raise the children, no you can't backseat parent was slow and didn't endear me. And no, either you're a team or you go separate ways--it's not always YOU when there's a WE. I admire the tenacity and daring of Searcey reporting, but casual conversational tone and whinging wasn't to my taste. YMMV. Ciao, bellas!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    When I wished for this book on NetGalley, I had no idea that when it came time to read it, we'd be in the middle of a huge, deadly pandemic. This time of uncertainty and sickness and grief is just so overwhelming and then add a serious book about West Africa on top of it and I will tell you, I felt very overwhelmed [hence this book being reviewed PAST the publishing date]. And then I started reading it and reading about the journey to West Africa [uprooting your family and moving halfway across When I wished for this book on NetGalley, I had no idea that when it came time to read it, we'd be in the middle of a huge, deadly pandemic. This time of uncertainty and sickness and grief is just so overwhelming and then add a serious book about West Africa on top of it and I will tell you, I felt very overwhelmed [hence this book being reviewed PAST the publishing date]. And then I started reading it and reading about the journey to West Africa [uprooting your family and moving halfway across the world is really daunting, no matter who you are] and then about the author's work reporting on Boko Haram and the women that escaped was both riveting and daunting. There were some chapters that left me practically breathless from the intensity of what she was learning and what these girls and women have gone through and continue to go through. And I started to realize, that what we are dealing with here - with the Covid-19 pandemic is what these people in West Africa [they are still recovering from the deadly outbreak of Ebola [that ended in 2016 but continues to have repercussions all over West Africa] deal with on an almost daily basis, on top of suicide bombers, corrupt governments, Boko Haram and a military that is truly not much better than the terrorists [especially when it comes to the girls they rescue and are supposed to protect]. It is difficult to wrap your head around just some of the things the author heard and saw. And it is almost all heartbreaking. And we ALL should be reading it. Because what is happening there, could happen here. We need to learn from these things and make sure that it doesn't happen here. And we need to strive to educate people. We must learn from others. We must. I am grateful to NetGalley and to Random House Publishing Group/Ballentine for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lory Widmer Hess

    These tales from an intrepid reporter's sojourn in West Africa offer much to educate, inform, and awaken human interest in the incredible suffering and courageous acts that take place in the region. The glimpse behind the scenes of a reporter's work is interesting, but the portions about Searcey's personal life were at times uncomfortable to read. With her high-powered career and an urge to save the world, it often seemed that her family was of relatively minor importance -- her husband and chil These tales from an intrepid reporter's sojourn in West Africa offer much to educate, inform, and awaken human interest in the incredible suffering and courageous acts that take place in the region. The glimpse behind the scenes of a reporter's work is interesting, but the portions about Searcey's personal life were at times uncomfortable to read. With her high-powered career and an urge to save the world, it often seemed that her family was of relatively minor importance -- her husband and children were ciphers to me, far less vivid than the people of her stories and even some of her coworkers. As an issue of balance, I could suggest that this thread should either have been given more space to develop, or left out entirely. Aside from that, I am grateful to have learned about some amazing people, and for Searcey's earnest efforts to bring their stories to the world.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I really liked Searcey's honesty--especially when she talks about the difficulties in parenting/working/marriage as they move their family to Africa. Her reporting on Boko Haram and just the insights into how reporting is done and her attempts to draw the world's attention to wars and conflicts in Africa are fascinating. I really liked Searcey's honesty--especially when she talks about the difficulties in parenting/working/marriage as they move their family to Africa. Her reporting on Boko Haram and just the insights into how reporting is done and her attempts to draw the world's attention to wars and conflicts in Africa are fascinating.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    I’m not married, I don’t have small children, and have few entanglements that keep me tied down to one particular place if I desired to move. That being said, I’m not sure that if I were asked by my company to move halfway across the globe to West Africa for a minimum of two years, I would accept. Dionne Searcy was living in New York City, had the family and children, as well as a high profile job with the New York Times, and yet still decided to pack up and head for Senegal to become the Tim I’m not married, I don’t have small children, and have few entanglements that keep me tied down to one particular place if I desired to move. That being said, I’m not sure that if I were asked by my company to move halfway across the globe to West Africa for a minimum of two years, I would accept. Dionne Searcy was living in New York City, had the family and children, as well as a high profile job with the New York Times, and yet still decided to pack up and head for Senegal to become the Times West Africa bureau chief. She did so without much research or planning or even without a particularly clear focus on what she would be reporting on when she arrived there. Rather she relied on a handful of “fixers” who helped her find her legs in a new environment and have a very productive term there. This book is really two stories. The first is Searcy’s adjustment to West Africa, or more accurately, her family’s adjustment. Things do not always go particularly smoothly with her children or husband. The latter having left a successful career behind to follow her to Africa. The former finding themselves with various maladies that include the unpleasant “mangoworm” (look it up on wiki if you have a strong stomach but you’ve been forewarned). The second story is her chronicling of the stories of women kidnapped and assaulted by members of Boko Haram, a fundamentalist Muslim sect based in Nigeria. These stories are harrowing and Searcy deserves a lot of credit for bringing them to light in her award winning articles in the Times. At the same time, I sometimes felt something slightly exploitive on her part. Perhaps it was in her constant writing about her fears that her dispatches from West Africa would never reach the front page, causing her career to suffer. This isn’t to say that wanting a front page story and wanting to do some positive good with your writing are mutually exclusive. She does have a great deal of empathy for the women she writes about. There were simply times when her focus on her career felt a little tone deaf considering the atrocities she was reporting on. Even to the point that her constant criticism of her husband for being selfish, despite having sacrificed his own career to stay home and care for their children in a foreign country while she travels around Africa, felt a little like whining. Something she acknowledges herself that she is guilty of. But these are minor quibbles on my part. I enjoyed her descriptions of the people and culture in Senegal and Nigeria. These are places that on the rare occasion that they are written about at all, usually are viewed through the lens of the “Dark Continent”. Searcy is fair while also acknowledging some disturbing aspects of what she sees around her. The places she writes about are neither all romantic nor all dangerous. Like most places around the world however, they can be and are frequently both. If you can overcome a little of the humble bragging, this is on the whole a pretty interesting read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Randell Green

    Honesty tied into events of the time. Everything that I want in a memoir. Really enjoyed and learned a lot. Highly recommend. 🇸🇳

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    An intriguing memoir of a New York Times journalist who moves to Dakar with her family to take on the role of West Africa Bureau Chief. While pursuing her career, she must also juggle her children's lives and deal with a stay-at-home husband who is not always happy with his lifestyle, or of putting his own career on hold. Searcey shares the ups and downs of her marriage and her family life as she finds herself traveling often in order to find the stories she is most passionate about. She research An intriguing memoir of a New York Times journalist who moves to Dakar with her family to take on the role of West Africa Bureau Chief. While pursuing her career, she must also juggle her children's lives and deal with a stay-at-home husband who is not always happy with his lifestyle, or of putting his own career on hold. Searcey shares the ups and downs of her marriage and her family life as she finds herself traveling often in order to find the stories she is most passionate about. She researches and writes about the Chibok girls who were abducted by Boko Haram, girls held captive and forced to become suicide bombers, and the women and girls who lived in the migrant camps that were often raped and abused by men in the military. Despite concerns for her family and for her own safety, she went to great lengths to report on the lives of the women in West Africa. In Pursuit of Disobedient Women takes readers on Searcey's journeys as she delves into the hardships that the women of West Africa endure. The book is also an honest account of the challenges that exist while living and working overseas. Thank you NetGalley and publisher.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    Had a hard time plowing through this story, didn’t like the writing. Horrific stories of Boko Haram and teenaged girls being kidnapped and forced to be suicide bombers. Second storyline line of juggling careers with her husband while living in Senegal.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Dionne’s story wove together three separate narratives: one of her life as the West Africa NYT bureau chief, one about the stories collected and shared in that capacity, and the final about her role as a wife, mother, and co-provider for her family. To the first piece: What. A. Career. As someone with fairly extensive travel experience (inclusive of third-world countries), her vivid descriptions brought to life scenes whose foreignness felt all too familiar: commercial flights making unscheduled Dionne’s story wove together three separate narratives: one of her life as the West Africa NYT bureau chief, one about the stories collected and shared in that capacity, and the final about her role as a wife, mother, and co-provider for her family. To the first piece: What. A. Career. As someone with fairly extensive travel experience (inclusive of third-world countries), her vivid descriptions brought to life scenes whose foreignness felt all too familiar: commercial flights making unscheduled stops in small villages, trying to navigate pay-as-you-go medical care, and the frustrating bureaucracy that exists when trying to accomplish even the most basic of tasks. Her coverage of war-torn regions in West Africa were balanced by snapshots of every-day life. For every story she filed on Boko Haram’s recruitment of female suicide bombers, there was a counterstory depicting something that felt a little more human—stories that are arguably just as important to tell. Illustrating female empowerment, for instance, in the form of a street-side Islamic court in Niger granting women the right to divorce abusive, absent, or polygamous husbands. The insight she shared into the particular challenges of her role forced me to apply a new lense to the decisions journalists must make as they curate news for public consumption. War reporting offered its own particular maddening aspect when it came to finding anecdotes. I knew that after a few years of any war, with so many stories already written, victims' situations need to be special if they were going to make it on the pages of a newspaper. The hardships need to be different than past hardships or far more severe. In the world of war reporting, it seemed like every story published had to depict a new threshold of suffering. In my head I had to make a cold calculation. I’m sure this woman was having a hard time paying her rent. Her hometown probably wouldn’t be safe enough for her to return to for months, if not years. But she had a place to live. She had food to eat. She had an income. It wasn’t enough but it was more than most. I felt deeply unqualified for this new position as jury and judge over whether the world would ever know her story, which she clearly wanted told. It was an enormous power to wield over a powerless human being. Though not everyone has to deal with the location-specific challenges that the author faced, the conversations around income, timing, childcare, and sacrifice as they pertain to navigating a dual-career relationship were particularly relatable not only to me, but I imagine to many couples these days. Her honesty was refreshing, though I found myself mostly cringing and occasionally smiling as she shared glimpses into the painful albeit rewarding balance. There were undertones of an unforgiving, holier-than-thou sentiment toward—in particular—non-working women who moved to West Africa as their high-powered husbands took diplomacy or NGO jobs in the region. While I found those off putting, it wasn’t enough to taint my overall impression of the author, or the stories she shared.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Haroon

    West Africa is a special part of the world. It might be the only piece of the planet where, over the last one hundred years, Muslims as a percentage of the population increased--through conversion, not immigration or disproportionate reproduction. Imagine that. Peoples who want to be Muslim. Maybe you knew that. Maybe you thought that only Christianity was spreading rapidly through Africa, as we often hear on the news. True, but only partly true. What attracts these diverse peoples to Islam? Not West Africa is a special part of the world. It might be the only piece of the planet where, over the last one hundred years, Muslims as a percentage of the population increased--through conversion, not immigration or disproportionate reproduction. Imagine that. Peoples who want to be Muslim. Maybe you knew that. Maybe you thought that only Christianity was spreading rapidly through Africa, as we often hear on the news. True, but only partly true. What attracts these diverse peoples to Islam? Not just that, but West Africa is one of the regions most resistant--for better and for worse--to demographic collapse, featuring high birthrates and, as such, a burgeoning population. By 2100, it is estimated that Nigeria alone will have well over twice as many people as the United States today, and may be the third most populous nation on the planet, lapping countries like Pakistan and Indonesia. It may also be relevant to point out that 50% of that country is Muslim. This matters more than we might realize. As Christianity recedes in the West, it is supplanted by Asian and especially African conversion. But Islam, too, is experiencing a similar shift. More and more, Islam will be a (West) African religion, with our religion’s greatest population clusters located not in South or Southeast Asia but in the band of countries that stretch from Senegal to Cameroon. Considering in addition what’s happening to birthrates in the West, that means the future of the West might also be very African. What I mean to say is, if Western countries seek out immigrants to replace the population we can’t replace on our own, we’ll likely look to West Africa. That also means that, for Western and American Muslims, many of our future co-religionists will be West Africans, dramatically altering the demographics and dynamics of our minority communities. (Christianity, too, as it disappears among white Europeans, will be a globally southern religion--in the West as well!) Yet there are surprisingly few resources devoted to understanding the promise, potential, and peculiarity of these places. (One exception might be Ross Douthat’s excellent recent work, “The Decadent Society,” [4.5/5] which pointedly contrasts [West] Africa’s vigorous religiousness with the faded pieties of the modern West, and suggests a challenge to the secularization thesis, not from the Middle East or South Asia, but here in the understudied continent.) Which is why, when I heard about New York Times’ reporter Dionne Searcey’s memoir of her time as West Africa bureau chief, called “In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away,” I was immediately intrigued. There are many ways we can be introduced to a place, one of which includes the attempts, by a well-intentioned outsider, to *have* to make sense of a place, not least because her job depends on it. For what might be the world’s most prestigious newspaper, Searcey would relocate to Dakar, capital of Senegal, and use this city as her home base as she explored a region and shared it with readers, with a special focus on the viciousness of Boko Haram, its horrific misogyny, and the context in which it emerged and radicalized. She is not only an intrepid journalist, however, but a wife and a mother, balancing these three roles in an unfamiliar environment. The book opens with Searcey and her husband frustrated by life in New York City until an exit is offered by a promotion at her newspaper. She would become the lead West Africa correspondent for the paper of record, reporting on a region that stretches from the Atlantic coast to deep into the two Congos, which includes a population of some half-a-billion people today. (Yes, you read that correctly: Much of that population, as you might expect, is concentrated in Nigeria.) As it turns out, this is several very good books in one. Part of it is the story of her attempt to be a bureau chief for an American paper in an African context many of her readers don’t know much about and probably didn’t care too much about, either. Part of it is how she, as a married woman, balances the enormous pressures of family life--including a husband who agrees to work from home (home being Dakar) and then wishes he hadn’t--and the urgent deadlines of journalism. Part of it is an exploration into sexuality, gender, identity, and piety, in the context of West Africa and, most interestingly to me, West African Islam, as she alternates (very intentionally) between stories of movements that reject Western epistemologies--Boko Haram principally--and those that embrace these, or mine these, for insight and expertise, producing a dynamic, sometimes chaotic, multilayered region thick with complicated attachments. Her area of focus is very often the paradoxical roles of women in these fast-changing societies, and the ways in which Western culture, Islamic ideals, local practices, economic pressures, and mass media alter how women see themselves and their roles. She never does so unreasonably, exaggeratedly, or in an alarmist or reductivist fashion--there is not a savior complex here, but an attempt at honest observation and appraisal. What we end up with is a very intimate book about what it’s like to be (in) a family in the modern age--the context is wildly unfamiliar at times, but the urgent questions underneath are common to all of us, as we struggle to figure out how we balance commitments to putting food on the table and the people around the table, even as we are offered nuanced portraits of West Africans in a world shaped by patriarchy, piety, and politics, Islamist and secularist. Her insights into regional Islam are generous and compassionate, no doubt aided by the fact that she was raised in a pious Christian household and, as such, religion is not unfamiliar to her. (There is the stray error: For example, she confuses Isaac for Ishmael in her recounting of the Eid holiday, but that’s a common confusion coming from a Judeo-Christian perspective.) My briefest take? I am glad I heard of this book and gladder still that I was able to read it. At times, she’s genuinely funny; at other times, she’s genuinely pained. She inserts a seriousness, ominousness, and honesty into her memoir that sets it apart from an ordinary travelogue, and provides us the context that, as good as reporting from the region might be, simply cannot provide, for lack of space. It’s not always an easy read. It is, instead, sometimes a troubling one. Sometimes an inspiring one. But always a very good one. West Africa is a place confronting major systemic challenges, not least of which is climate change. But it is also a place possessed of a fierce creative energy, a deep religious impulse, a healthy embrace of postmodern realities, and a dynamism that has seen Nigeria become the continent’s largest economy. In the futures of Islam, Christianity, the West, and the world, be not surprised if West Africa plays a formidable and unmistakable role. As for why, this title might help you begin to understand.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emma-Kate Schaake

    I enjoyed her honest and introspective reflections about her move to West Africa as a reporter. She works to balance a meaningful career and a family and her writing clearly portrays her experience, but I found the title to be misleading. While she does strive to share women’s stories abroad and back in the US with the NYT, I didn’t feel a real theme and therefore no real resolution or thread of purpose. I struggle rating this because it was engaging and a worthwhile read, but I just left feelin I enjoyed her honest and introspective reflections about her move to West Africa as a reporter. She works to balance a meaningful career and a family and her writing clearly portrays her experience, but I found the title to be misleading. While she does strive to share women’s stories abroad and back in the US with the NYT, I didn’t feel a real theme and therefore no real resolution or thread of purpose. I struggle rating this because it was engaging and a worthwhile read, but I just left feeling “okay, cool.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

    Fascinating! I was intrigued with her struggles as a career woman and wife and mother. I appreciated the candidness as she spoke of her personal life. I enjoyed the stories, however heart wrenching, of the women of West Africa. I respect her role as a journalist shining the light on the hardships these women endured. Not something any family could undertake. A good read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joelle

    Dionne Searcey is an engaging writer who showcases a story we don't hear very often in North America - that of Western African nations. Her story was engaging, had some very evocative moments as well as some light-hearted things. I also felt that she did a great job of not taking the stories of others and turning them into something sordid or something that was being used for gain or for her own fame or success. In fact, this really showed her ability in her own craft and it gives a sense of hum Dionne Searcey is an engaging writer who showcases a story we don't hear very often in North America - that of Western African nations. Her story was engaging, had some very evocative moments as well as some light-hearted things. I also felt that she did a great job of not taking the stories of others and turning them into something sordid or something that was being used for gain or for her own fame or success. In fact, this really showed her ability in her own craft and it gives a sense of humanity to the difficult work that reporters have to do around the world. The story is an easy read, not too many pages, and an appropriate length.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    This one will have me thinking for a while. Very interesting account of the author's journalism job in Central & West Africa and her family life throughout as they adjust to the new continent. She focused her stories quite often on the Boko Haram militants and specifically on the women who survived the group. Their stories are heartbreaking and horrible, but the women are amazing; brave, resourceful, and resilient. I think I need to go search the archives at the New York Times to read these arti This one will have me thinking for a while. Very interesting account of the author's journalism job in Central & West Africa and her family life throughout as they adjust to the new continent. She focused her stories quite often on the Boko Haram militants and specifically on the women who survived the group. Their stories are heartbreaking and horrible, but the women are amazing; brave, resourceful, and resilient. I think I need to go search the archives at the New York Times to read these articles. The family life was interesting, and it gave you the best glimpses of non-war-torn Africa. But I admit I didn't find it as interesting as her job.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    Searcy writes of the two plus years she spent as NYT Bureau Chief in West Africa . An interesting look at the workings of the paper and the prestige of landing on the front page while attempting to meet family demands. An in depth look at women abducted by Boko Haram who became wives or failed suicide bombers. An intense look at the reign of terror of Boko Haram and militants. Finding a feminist vein running through the women in an unexpected place. Provides a lot to think about. Copy provided by Searcy writes of the two plus years she spent as NYT Bureau Chief in West Africa . An interesting look at the workings of the paper and the prestige of landing on the front page while attempting to meet family demands. An in depth look at women abducted by Boko Haram who became wives or failed suicide bombers. An intense look at the reign of terror of Boko Haram and militants. Finding a feminist vein running through the women in an unexpected place. Provides a lot to think about. Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I loved everything about this book! I love the way the author picked up her whole family with courage and moved to Africa. I loved the balance of her and her husband with their careers, and her dogged pursuit of various stories of the struggles of women in Africa, most poignantly the victims (Boko Haram)of women kidnapped, abused and utilized as suicide bombers. Incredibly courageous young women who fought back, despite ALL of the odds. Incredible courage by the author and her cohorts to pursue I loved everything about this book! I love the way the author picked up her whole family with courage and moved to Africa. I loved the balance of her and her husband with their careers, and her dogged pursuit of various stories of the struggles of women in Africa, most poignantly the victims (Boko Haram)of women kidnapped, abused and utilized as suicide bombers. Incredibly courageous young women who fought back, despite ALL of the odds. Incredible courage by the author and her cohorts to pursue such stories. Bravo.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Great summer read. She discusses balancing marriage and kids, harrowing stories not quite good enough to make the front page, and how to be a reporter in Western Africa.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Excellent. I loved it. Insightful and empowering, while speaking toward what a healthy compromise actually is. Very good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adrianne

    Dionne Searcey, a reporter for the New York Times, takes a post as the paper's West Africa bureau chief. Knowing next to nothing about West Africa, she moves her husband and three young children from Brooklyn to Dakar, Senegal. What transpires is her personal reckoning with what it means to be a mom and wife as she becomes the breadwinner, often absent and traveling in dangerous places, while she and her family try to figure out how to fit into their new life filled with expats, "following spous Dionne Searcey, a reporter for the New York Times, takes a post as the paper's West Africa bureau chief. Knowing next to nothing about West Africa, she moves her husband and three young children from Brooklyn to Dakar, Senegal. What transpires is her personal reckoning with what it means to be a mom and wife as she becomes the breadwinner, often absent and traveling in dangerous places, while she and her family try to figure out how to fit into their new life filled with expats, "following spouses," NGOs, privilege, violence and whether to truly see and participate in the local life that surrounds them. As well, Dionne Searcey is determined to make the front page with her reporting to get America to pay attention to the region, from Boko Haram-conscripted teen girl suicide bombers to young women in small villages shaking up social norms by getting out of bad marriages. The situation of women trying to survive and evolve out of the violence of the region and the restrictions of a patriarchal society certainly deserves a spotlight. And, insight into how to "have it all" as a woman with a career, a spouse and children, would be welcome by most who find themselves in that situation. However, I felt the conversational tone of the book didn't necessarily reflect the gravity of the violence against these women and the danger inherent in covering it - but perhaps, that's because the violence becomes "conversational" when it is a constant presence? Just as balancing career and family is a constant juggle, so must it have been to balance the tone of the book between the gravity of journalism amongst heinous violence and the inner turmoil of family life, when the domestic travails could seem trivial set against violence, terrorism and hunger.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lissa00

    Searcey, a New York Times journalist, and her husband were living a frantic dual-career life when she decided to uproot them all and take a West African post. Moving into Senegal is itself a jolting experience but she also traveled widely as she covered war-torn areas and traumatized people. As she did this, she understood that her husband was pushing pause on his own career and the resentment that this sometimes caused. This is a fascinating and well written memoir with heartbreaking stories ab Searcey, a New York Times journalist, and her husband were living a frantic dual-career life when she decided to uproot them all and take a West African post. Moving into Senegal is itself a jolting experience but she also traveled widely as she covered war-torn areas and traumatized people. As she did this, she understood that her husband was pushing pause on his own career and the resentment that this sometimes caused. This is a fascinating and well written memoir with heartbreaking stories about the toll, especially on women, of civil war. It also examines how women persevere against seemingly impossible ordeals. I could have listened to her stories of West Africa for many more pages but I think that her own marital exploration was a bit weaker. Overall, though, this is a book that I highly recommend. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    Dionne Searcy has written a compelling memoir of her time as West African Bureau Chief for the New York Times, while pulling back the curtain on how to hold a family together under some challenging and unprecedented circumstances. I really couldn’t put this book down, wanting to know more about how a young mother of three pulls off some dangerous forays into the heart of Boko Haram, meeting with African war lords, and even the occasional goat sacrifice. She trusts her local handlers and meeting Dionne Searcy has written a compelling memoir of her time as West African Bureau Chief for the New York Times, while pulling back the curtain on how to hold a family together under some challenging and unprecedented circumstances. I really couldn’t put this book down, wanting to know more about how a young mother of three pulls off some dangerous forays into the heart of Boko Haram, meeting with African war lords, and even the occasional goat sacrifice. She trusts her local handlers and meeting them through the pages of this book is truly an honor and a privilege. When Jaime, one of her main facilitators is hurt, she and her husband Todd take you on a thrilling ride to make sure he gets the care he needs. I’ve read that books are “portable magic”; if you want to immerse yourself into a world you’ve never lived, gasp, laugh, learn, and commiserate, read this one!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    I love this book. The story, the way the story unfolded, the author’s voice, ...were all excellent components to telling not just a good story, but a lesson in history and love.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dave Courtney

    One of the books of the year for me personally. I went into this one on recommendation skeptical over how much I was going to enjoy it (politically centered books aren't really my thing), and I was absolutely hooked after the first 20 pages. Author Dionne Searcey is essentially recounting her time as a reporter for the New York Times that saw her uprooting her family to move to West Africa (Nigeria) back in 2015. I think what really helped me personally was she was able to bring us as readers in One of the books of the year for me personally. I went into this one on recommendation skeptical over how much I was going to enjoy it (politically centered books aren't really my thing), and I was absolutely hooked after the first 20 pages. Author Dionne Searcey is essentially recounting her time as a reporter for the New York Times that saw her uprooting her family to move to West Africa (Nigeria) back in 2015. I think what really helped me personally was she was able to bring us as readers into the politics by way of the very accessible travel and family narrative. Her journey into the heart of Nigeria and its political strife is blanketed by these wonderful anecdotal stories that bring us along for the ride into their new found, if temporary, life in a foreign country. We get as much of the turmoil (and her reporting of it) through some white knuckle experiences as we do of the beautiful side of Nigerian culture as well, mainly by centering us within those family dynamics. The other part that I really, really loved was the way Searcey forms the narrative thematically by paralleling the stories she is resporting about the plight of Nigerian woman and her own experience of learning how to navigate a marraige in such difficult circumstnaces. Her striving to do what she is good at and to place herself in danger's path for lengthy periods is set in tension with responsibilities she also has for being both a wife and a mother. She begins to understand this part of her life through the stories of the women she meets who are struggling in their own way to find the freedom to become who they are while also balancing their need for relationship and family and responsbility. It's an intimate way to marry the particular cultural struggle as a complex and universal challenge, and the way she writes about these themes allows her to bring her life and experiences from back home in America into the experiences she is learning about in Nigeria in a way that both makes sense and allows them to be informed by the other (without losing the distinct and very real challenges of the other in the process). Along with all of that is the writing which demonstrates excellent flow and pace, reads really well and easily, and that is chalk full of wonderful moments, be it funny, emotional, thrilling, shocking, or lovely. It's the whole package.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jan Peregrine

    Lately I've read a number of feminist-type, nonfiction books, starting with Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (not satisfying), Women and Power by Mary Beard, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away by Dionne Searcey. The latter is most recommended, then Tina Fey's, Mary Beard's, and lastly Atwood's. Searcey grew up in a rural Nebraska town not far from me, but I never met her. It's a captivating memoir by a foreign correspondent Lately I've read a number of feminist-type, nonfiction books, starting with Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (not satisfying), Women and Power by Mary Beard, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away by Dionne Searcey. The latter is most recommended, then Tina Fey's, Mary Beard's, and lastly Atwood's. Searcey grew up in a rural Nebraska town not far from me, but I never met her. It's a captivating memoir by a foreign correspondent for the New York Times overseeing the West Africa region from her office in Dakar, Senegal on the western coast. Her husband, children, and cat come along. Right away she realizes she needs to demythologize the area because Americans don't know how progressive Africa can be. She doesn't want to just cover the terrorist group Boko Haram that originated in Nigeria, but much of her efforts report on how BH are using girls and young women as reluctant suicide bombers and she gets to meet with many who escaped without blowing up anybody...and a couple who did before escaping. A few 'married” BH leaders and one returned to her husband. Searcey had the help of a local journalist so her many front-page articles were of great impact. A series of photographers accompanied her on trips across Nigeria and Cameroon, especially. Another fascinating article was about why so many West African women are seeking divorces. She listens for a good week to the cases brought continually to a holy man who reminded Searcey of Judge Judy as he tried to repair marriages or give them another chance. I also learned how difficult marriage and child-raising can be as a foreign correspondent chasing after stories while worrying about the kids and a neglected husband wanting his own career. There's humor amid the chaos, thrills galore, and tragedy mixed with well-earned triumphs. Not only the West African women were being “disobedient,” but so was Searcey and in a very good way. The book often made me smile. The world needs more disobedient women!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dana DesJardins

    Searcey is an excellent reporter: curious, brave, and with an eye for the telling detail that makes the reader feel like more than an observer. From the little I know of Tabasci and life in Dakar, she gets the experience of daily life there right. She also is a rare American with an open mind. She couches the atrocities perpetrated by Boko Haram on the Nigerian people in descriptions of her struggles to overcome American sexism and balance life with her three young children and displaced husband Searcey is an excellent reporter: curious, brave, and with an eye for the telling detail that makes the reader feel like more than an observer. From the little I know of Tabasci and life in Dakar, she gets the experience of daily life there right. She also is a rare American with an open mind. She couches the atrocities perpetrated by Boko Haram on the Nigerian people in descriptions of her struggles to overcome American sexism and balance life with her three young children and displaced husband, thereby widening the frame. By contextualizing heart-breaking stories of the stolen Chibok girls with the ordeals of traveling to interview them, we see not only the effect on the local population, but the cost of reporting it. Chimamanda Adichie says that the way to tell a "single story" -- that of Africa's suffering rather than its multitudinous resilience and vibrancy -- is to begin with "secondly." Focus on the guerillas rather than the imperialism that bred them and you can justify western dismissal. Searcey sees her own upbringing as a corn-fed Nebraskan as equally idiosyncratic to her friend's emigration from Sierra Leone. In fact, this memoir shows her award-winning reportage inside out, exposing the hidden seams. She includes the reactions she excised from published accounts, like the moment when a survivor finished her story and she debated whether hugging her would be a breach of professionalism. (She hugged her.) This book does what she must have hoped: it centers people rather than events, shows the consequences of American corruption on distant people, and elicits understanding of the daily heroism surmounting poverty requires. Her final chapters recounting a desperate effort to save a friend's leg from amputation show not only the abject inadequacy of Nigerian hospitals, but also the brilliant doctors, hard-working pharmacists, and generous strangers who compensate for its lacks. Searcey's compassion and radical egalitarianism implicate us all in the struggles of Nigeria to become its own country, independent of western manipulation.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Pros: Interesting deeper look into West African culture and politics. Descriptive, unique perspective into the field of journalism and their lifestyle. Cons: Unfortunately, I have a lot of them. I didn't love the writer's voice and struggled to relate to her and her family troubles. Her comparisons and distance from other reporters and people in her field gave off, frankly, a "pick me" attitude. I felt like her family was not fleshed out in this novel - one-dimensional, and she often painted hers Pros: Interesting deeper look into West African culture and politics. Descriptive, unique perspective into the field of journalism and their lifestyle. Cons: Unfortunately, I have a lot of them. I didn't love the writer's voice and struggled to relate to her and her family troubles. Her comparisons and distance from other reporters and people in her field gave off, frankly, a "pick me" attitude. I felt like her family was not fleshed out in this novel - one-dimensional, and she often painted herself as martyr while trying to give a balanced view from her husband's POV. She was self-deprecating about her lack of athleticism to the point of me cringing. Finally, and what I think really knocked stars off for me, was that I really, really did not enjoy her repeated statements about the ethics of journalism. She claims that journalists are "observers, not activists". Wow. Talk about coming from a privileged, old-school perspective. I am in a scientific field, so I understand the want for objectiveness, but I'm a firm believer that everyone should confront and acknowledge their biases. Like it or not, she did have an opinion about what was going on around her, and to pretend otherwise bordered on ignorance. In particular, there was a segment in the book where her local liaison wanted to give an interviewee an $8 bag of rice. She claims this is a conflict of interest, as you shouldn't "bribe" sources. Well, what about compensating them? For their time, their effort, their willingness to put themselves in danger? You don't have to be the direct source of compensation, but not using your connections for good is ridiculous. If this is how everyone in the field of journalism function, I am appalled. I struggled to finish this book and was glad I borrowed it from a friend. One of the lowest reviews I've ever given on Goodreads.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway and it did not disappoint. Dionne Searcy's determination to get the stories of the victims of Boko Haram is admirable. Moving her husband and three children from Brooklyn to Dakar, where she would spend weeks at a time away on assignment was a significant step in her career and a true test to her marriage. The horrifying stories that Searcey brought to light while working in West Africa were her greatest achievement in that they opened the eyes of man I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway and it did not disappoint. Dionne Searcy's determination to get the stories of the victims of Boko Haram is admirable. Moving her husband and three children from Brooklyn to Dakar, where she would spend weeks at a time away on assignment was a significant step in her career and a true test to her marriage. The horrifying stories that Searcey brought to light while working in West Africa were her greatest achievement in that they opened the eyes of many to the plight of those at the mercy of Boko Haram. The distance she was forced to put between her and the women she interviewed was startling but necessary in her line of work and mirrored the distance growing between her and her husband. Searcy's relationships with her fixer, the photographers she traveled with, and her own family were another interesting layer of this memoir. The environment she worked in and the environment her family lived in while she was away was definitely different but each posed their own challenges regarding danger and cultural norms. In an attempt to bring to light the atrocities happening in West Africa, Searcy demonstrated how difficult it is to find and write the stories and how the sacrifices made by the journalists can sometimes extend to their family. An absorbing look at journalism, Boko Haram, women in West Africa, news in today's political climate, and the struggles of women worldwide.

  28. 4 out of 5

    M

    I loved and devoured this book. As a woman journalist, I felt I could relate so much in here, about loving the chase and pursuit of a story, about the challenges and struggles of having it all as a woman with a powerful editorial position and a family and kids. I like that she didn’t try to tie it in a bow. Marriage is hard. Sacrifices are hard. Personal ambition is hard. I felt I was with Dionne in her perilous travels, the thrills, the terrors, all of it. She has lived an extraordinary life an I loved and devoured this book. As a woman journalist, I felt I could relate so much in here, about loving the chase and pursuit of a story, about the challenges and struggles of having it all as a woman with a powerful editorial position and a family and kids. I like that she didn’t try to tie it in a bow. Marriage is hard. Sacrifices are hard. Personal ambition is hard. I felt I was with Dionne in her perilous travels, the thrills, the terrors, all of it. She has lived an extraordinary life and doesn’t shy away from her needs and her aspirations, and her pain and her struggles, while situating her own story amid the backdrop of the stories of women in West Africa that have been brutalized in ways that were often hard to read. She honors their stories, their lives, beautifully in this book. She reports and writes with a human lens, something that is often missing from today’s reporting. I loved the asides about journalism and writing, too. “Insecurity is half of what fuels most reporters’ ambition.” (250).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alison Miller

    Not knowing much about Western Africa, I chose this memoir as a springboard to learn more. I also thought the family dynamics described in the synopsis about the book sounded interesting. I was not disappointed on either front in this book. Searcey’s writing style, however, felt immature and was not what I was expecting. The way she described the photojournalist partnered with sounded like a diary entry for a pubescent girl, not an acclaimed writer for The New York Times. She used the word hooke Not knowing much about Western Africa, I chose this memoir as a springboard to learn more. I also thought the family dynamics described in the synopsis about the book sounded interesting. I was not disappointed on either front in this book. Searcey’s writing style, however, felt immature and was not what I was expecting. The way she described the photojournalist partnered with sounded like a diary entry for a pubescent girl, not an acclaimed writer for The New York Times. She used the word hooker instead of prostitute at least once, which is just an example of what I consider immaturity in her vocabulary. In many of her descriptions of geopolitical situations, I felt a weird feeling, an inappropriateness coming from white privilege. Also, the juxtaposition of her family life with the geopolitical situations felt very strange at times, as if I were reading two separate books, often within the same paragraph.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maisa Barbosa

    In times of disregard for the press, this book is a tribute to the brave and imperfect journalists who seek for the truth in war zones, and most importantly for the sources who risk themselves to tell their stories. I love how multidimensional this book is, how it is not telling the story of a fearless hero who risks everything to publish, how it portraits not only the great moments of insight but also the waiting, the bureaucracy, the search process itself and the untold consequences of diving In times of disregard for the press, this book is a tribute to the brave and imperfect journalists who seek for the truth in war zones, and most importantly for the sources who risk themselves to tell their stories. I love how multidimensional this book is, how it is not telling the story of a fearless hero who risks everything to publish, how it portraits not only the great moments of insight but also the waiting, the bureaucracy, the search process itself and the untold consequences of diving in such a draining job, specially if you're a woman. It is not over dramatic (the horror stories of Boko Haram could easily take the book this way), it doesnt romanticize the press, Western society or even war survivals. And it beautifully portraits the small victories and brave acts of resistance of Women and girls.

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