Book review: Bring Back Our Girls

Bring Back Our Girls

Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw

Faber and Faber

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

In 2014 an obscure terrorist group kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from a remote, rural school in Nigeria.

These terrorists had been abducting children for some time and this kidnapping would not be the last but it was the only one by the group to capture the world’s attention and cause a hashtag storm.

Curiously, the kidnapping and subsequent attention it attracted came about almost accidentally.

The terrorist group, Boko Haram, was little known outside of Nigeria and they attacked the Chibok all-girls high school, with the intention of looting what they thought was an empty school.

They did not expect to find the girls there but when they did they kidnapped them anyway.

The tweetstorm that followed came about in a similar way.

A celebrity retweeted the #BringBackOurGirls tag and several other public figures followed suit.

The viral tweet attracted global attention and high-profile public figures put pressure on Nigeria’s president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, to secure the girls’ release.

Help was offered from several sources, including the CIA, and yet it would be years before some of the girls were finally freed.

While other books have sought to tell the story of the girls, this book has a different approach. It asks a very important question: did social media attention help or hinder the rescue?

On a deeper level it asks, how effective is social media activism?

It also touches on the stories of several of the girls and looks more broadly at the rescue attempts, many of which were botched or a complete mess and at least one that did more harm than good.

The book is well researched and written and weaves the facts together into a tragic narrative.

It introduces some of the girls but also the people who worked to rescue them.

It gives a closer look at the bungling, the bureaucracy, the mind games and manipulations.

It even introduces some of the unwitting terrorists, who were kidnapped, indoctrinated, and trained as child soldiers and then offered a reward of a Chibok girl as a bride.

It introduces the families of the girls, some of whom are still searching for their stolen daughters.

The book is very sad and not for the faint-hearted but it is also hopeful and thought-provoking.

The stories of the girls and the lengths they went to defy their captors and keep their spirits up are inspiring and shows there is always hope, even in the darkest adversities.