Synopses & Reviews
Hugely charismatic, humble, and possessed of preternatural luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a single mother of three, recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.
Born in a rural village in 1940, Wangari Maathai was already an iconoclast as a child, determined to get an education even though most girls were uneducated. We see her studying with Catholic missionaries, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States, and becoming the first woman both to earn a PhD in East and Central Africa and to head a university department in Kenya. We witness her numerous run-ins with the brutal Moi government. She makes clear the political and personal reasons that compelled her, in 1977, to establish the Green Belt Movement, which spread from Kenya across Africa and which helps restore indigenous forests while assisting rural women by paying them to plant trees in their villages. We see how Maathai's extraordinary courage and determination helped transform Kenya's government into the democracy in which she now serves as assistant minister for the environment and as a member of Parliament. And we are with her as she accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in recognition of her contribution to sustainable development, human rights, and peace.
In Unbowed, Wangari Maathai offers an inspiriting message of hope and prosperity through self-sufficiency.
"Maathai, a 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, presents a matter-of-fact account of her rather exceptional life in Kenya. Born in 1940, Matthai attended primary school at a time when Kenyan girls were not educated; went on to earn a Ph.D. and became head of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi before founding Kenya's Green Belt Movement in 1977, which mobilized thousands of women to plant trees in an effort to restore the country's indigenous forests. Because Kenya's environmental degradation was largely due to the policies of a corrupt government, she then made the Green Belt Movement part of a broader campaign for democracy. Maathai endured personal attacks by the ruling powers-President Moi denounced her as a 'wayward' woman-and engaged in political activities that landed her in jail several times. When a new government came into power in 2002, she was elected to Parliament and appointed assistant minister in the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources. Despite workmanlike prose, this memoir (after The Green Belt Movement) documents the remarkable achievements of an influential environmentalist and activist. Photos not seen by PW." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Maathai has restored humankind's innate if nearly lost knowledge of the intrinsic connection between thriving, wisely managed ecosystems and health, justice, and peace." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Maathai's prose is spare and simple. But her passion comes through clearly." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"This clear-eyed memoir describes three acts in the ongoing drama of the great woman's life: innocence and education, heartache and determination, and, ultimately, triumph....In her memoir, but more importantly in her life, [Maathai] makes the case that persistence is courage. She renounces self-pity and embraces hope, and in the process has lifted many from despair to dignity." Jan Cottingham, Ms. Magazine
(read the entire Ms. Magazine review
In this inspiring memoir, Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, recounts her life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya. Includes 16 pages of photos.
About the Author
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which, through networks of rural women, has planted over thirty million trees across Kenya since 1977. In 2002, she was elected to Kenyas Parliament in the first free elections in a generation, and in 2003, she was appointed assistant minister for the environment. She lives and works in Nairobi.