I heard about In The Shadow of Freedom from literary agent Michelle Wolfson. Sadly, she did not love my book enough to want to represent it. But through her I discovered this awesome read! It was written by her clients and she was promoting it on Twitter. I clicked on a link she shared and thought, "This? I must read!"
I'm not going to lie to you. This book can be difficult and painful to read. It recounts atrocities, events, a way of life and a world far removed from the one you and I know. But to me, that is exactly why this story should be read, and appreciated.
At certain points it made me wince. I even had to put it down and walk away a few times, tears in my eyes. I needed a break. But I always came back, because I simply had to know what happened next. In many ways, it reads like a thriller. It is an absolute page turner, even though you know how the story ultimately ends.
I can't begin to imagine in my wildest dreams the life Tchicaya Missamou has lived or the journey he took that brought him to America. But I can relate to the emotions he experiences. I understand his will to survive and his strong desire to protect his family. These are basic human emotions we can all appreciate and respect.
There were also parts of this book that had me crying from laughter. Although it is clearly not the intent. The revelation of what Tchicaya considers to be his biggest obstacle to freedom, for example, absolutely tickled me. As did the reason he decides he will come to America in the first place.
Shortly after arriving in America, he goes to a mall and sits on a bench watching people. He wants to observe how Americans, particularly black Americans, dress and act so he can learn to fit in. His descriptions had me howling with laughter. He is simply sharing his impressions as a young man from the Congo who winds up in California. Looking at it from his perspective is quite amusing.
Tears and laughter aside, most of all I admire Tchicaya Missamou. For having the courage not only to survive these events, but to share his story. He is an extraodinary person. You should get to know him. I'm giving his book a Ross' Rad Read Award.