Sunday, November 18, 2012

Donkey Heart Monkey Mind (Djaffur Chetouane and Rachel Jackson)

Donkey Heart Monkey Mind
Djaffur Chetouane and Rachel Jackson
Nonfiction, Autobiography/True Life
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: In 1980's Algeria, surviving amid corruption and scarcity takes strength and wits, not to mention choosing friends and enemies with care. For the Berbers, native North Africans suppressed and marginalized by centuries of invaders, life is even more precarious - even their native language is outlawed. Like many young men, Djaffur chafes under these restrictions. He joins fellow Berbers at his university in speaking out against their oppression, and finds himself on the wrong end of a deeply corrupt political machine that thinks nothing of torturing or even murdering its own citizens. Seeing nothing for himself but a future of dirt-poor living and prejudice in his native Algeria, Djaffur determines to flee the country... an escape fraught with false starts, close calls, setbacks, and missteps that nearly cost him his life.

REVIEW: I grabbed this during a freebie Kindle download window; it seemed like a change of pace, and North Africa is one of the many parts of the world I hear mentioned in the news but don't really know that much about. Chetouane paints a grim picture of a world sunk so far into its own corruption that true liberty and reform seem impossible, with attitudes too deeply ingrained in their society to ever be rooted out. Even here, though, one can find glimmers of kindness and even hope if one looks hard enough. His own journey from oppression to freedom sees him on the wrong side of the law more often than not, mostly as a matter of raw survival. I wound up clipping it a half-point because of occasionally thick politics (integral to understanding the full extent of the forces aligned against the Berbers, and the majority of North Africans in general, but still dense enough to trip up the narrative), plus some irritating formatting issues in the Kindle edition. Overall, Chetouane's tale reads like something out of a movie, a story of desperation and depravation and even personal enlightenment, made all the more incredible by the fact that it actually happened.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Sword and the Cross (Fergus Fleming) - My Review
Hidden Libyco-Berber Alphabet (Bob Idjennaden) - My Review

1 comment:

  1. I liked it well enough to spend six months writing the screenplay. But Theresa hits the nail on the head in her review, "Heroism is for those who persevere and succeed WITHOUT resorting to fraud and crime." And how is it that Stanley has waited six months for a copy of the book after paying on PayPal? Why is Jafar selling copies of books he doesn't have and/or doesn't send or takes 8 months to send? I've actually thought about starting a website like DonkeyHeartMonkeyMindFraud because I just wonder how many people on the planet Jafar has borrowed money from and never repaid, never mind his outright theft of years past. I met Jafar at Peet's Coffee in Lake Merritt with the 6am club. After hearing bits and pieces of Jafar's tale, I paid for this book and finally received it eight months later after some strongly worded emails, which should have been a red flag to me. I read it in two days, called Jafar up and told him I was really a screenwriter and that I would like to write the screenplay the next time I was unemployed, which I did. I entered into a business arrangement with Jafar, and I wrote a great script. In late April of 2013 Jafar emailed me from Paris where he indicated he had sold the book to a French publishing company to be printed in French and distributed in French Europe. He sounded desperate and told me he needed a few hundred dollars, that he would repay me imminently with the proceeds from the sale. Believing in Jafar and his story, I sent him a PayPal for $500. Jafar's email signature quotes 'The truth that hurts is better than a lie that gives pleasure,' yet I listened to one excuse after another as to why he couldn't send the money. He gave me a handful of dates that he never made good on. I am not rich, not close. I work hard for my money, and I told Jafar at the time I sent him the money that I really couldn't afford it. It is now March 2014, and I haven't received a dime, and Jafar stopped responding to my emails. Do I believe his life story? Yes. But Jafar is a 46 year old man who still hasn't figured out how to stop screwing people and lying to them, or how to go to work regularly as the rest of contributing society does. MAN UP JAFAR. NO MORE EXCUSES. NO MORE MISSED ETAs. SEND ME MY MONEY. Maybe then I'll stop writing these reviews and delete them. And send people their books when they order them, OR REFUND THEIR MONEY. IT IS NOT YOUR MONEY JAFAR.