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Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse

by Damien Lewis Suraya Sadeed

Includes a Reading Group Guide and Author Q&AFrom her first humanitarian visit to Afghanistan in 1994, Suraya Sadeed has been personally delivering relief and hope to Afghan orphans and refugees, to women and girls in inhuman situations deemed too dangerous for other aid workers or for journalists. Her memoir of these missions, Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, is as unconventional as the woman who has lived it. This is no humanitarian missive; it is an adventure story with heart.To help the Afghan people, Suraya has flown in a helicopter piloted by a man who was stoned beyond reason. She has traveled through mountain passes on horseback alongside mules, teenage militiamen, and Afghan leaders. She has stared defiantly into the eyes of members of the Taliban and of the Mujahideen who were determined to slow or stop her. She has hidden and carried $100,000 in aid, strapped to her stomach, into ruined villages. She has built clinics. She has created secret schools for Afghan girls. She has dedicated the second half of her life to the education and welfare of Afghan women and children, founding the organization Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) to fund her efforts.Suraya was born the daughter of the governor of Kabul amid grand walls, beautiful gardens, and peace. In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, she fled to the United States with her husband, their young daughter, their I-94 papers, and little else. In America, she became the workaholic owner of a prosperous real estate company, enjoying all the worldly comforts anyone could want, but when a personal tragedy struck in the early 1990s, Suraya seriously questioned how she was living and soon sharply changed the direction of her life.Now, in Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, she shares her story of passion, courage, and love, painting a complex portrait of Afghanistan, its people, and its foreign visitors that defies every stereotype and invites us all to contribute to the lives of others and to hope.son. She has traveled through mountain passes on horseback alongside mules, teenage militiamen, and Afghan leaders. She has stared defiantly into the eyes of members of the Taliban and of the Mujahideen who were determined to slow or stop her. She has hidden and carried $100,000 in aid, strapped to her stomach, into ruined villages. She has built clinics. She has created secret schools for Afghan girls. She has dedicated the second half of her life to the education and welfare of Afghan women and children, founding the organization Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) to fund her efforts. Suraya was born the daughter of the governor of Kabul amid grand walls, beautiful gardens, and peace. In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, she fled to the United States with her husband, their young daughter, their I-94 papers, and little else. In America, she became the workaholic owner of a prosperous real estate company, enjoying all the worldly comforts anyone could want, but when a personal tragedy struck in the early 1990s, Suraya seriously questioned how she was living and soon sharply changed the direction of her life. Now, in Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, she shares her story of passion, courage, and love, painting a complex portrait of Afghanistan, its people, and its foreign visitors that defies every stereotype and invites us all to contribute to the lives of others and to hope.

Homeland

by George Obama Damien Lewis

Homeland is the remarkable memoir of George Obama, President Obama's Kenyan half brother, who found the inspiration to strive for his goal--to better the lives of his own people--in his elder brother's example. In the spring of 2006, George met his older half brother, then-U.S. senator Barack Obama, for the second time--the first was when he was five. The father they shared was as elusive a figure for George as he had been for Barack; he died when George was six months old. George was raised by his mother and stepfather, a French aid worker, in a well-to-do suburb of Nairobi. He was a star pupil and rugby player at a top boarding school in the Mount Kenya foothills, but after his mother and stepfather separated when he was fifteen, he was deprived of the only father figure he had ever known. Now left angry, rebellious, and troubled, his life crashed and burned. George dropped out of school and started drinking and smoking hashish. From there it was only a short step to the gangland and a life of crime. He gravitated to Nairobi's vast ghetto, and in the midst of its harsh existence discovered something wholly unexpected: a vibrant community and a special affinity with the slum kids, whom he helped survive amid grinding poverty and despair. When he was twenty, he and three fellow gangsters were arrested for a crime they did not commit and imprisoned for nine months in the hell of a Nairobi jail. In an extraordinary turn of events, George went on to represent himself and the other three at trial. The judge threw out the case, and George walked out of jail a changed man. After winning his freedom, George met his American brother for a second time, and was left with a strong impression that Barack would run for the American presidency. George was inspired by his older brother's example to try to change the lives of his people, the ghetto-dwellers, for the better. Today, George chooses to live in the Nairobi ghetto, where he has set up his own community group and works with others to help the ghetto-dwellers, and especially the slum kids, overcome the challenges surrounding their lives. "My brother has risen to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. Here in Kenya, my aim is to be a leader amongst the poorest people on earth--those who live in the slums." George Obama's story describes the seminal influence Barack had on his future and reveals his own unique struggles with family, tribe, inheritance, and redemption.

Little Daughter

by Zoya Phan Damien Lewis

Zoya Phan was born in the remote jungles of Burma, to the Karen ethnic group. For decades the Karen have been under attack from Burma's military junta; Zoya's mother was a guerrilla soldier, her father a freedom activist. She lived in a bamboo hut on stilts by the Moei River; she hunted for edible fungi with her much-loved adopted brother, Say Say. Many Karen are Christian or Buddhist, but Zoya's parents were animist, venerating the spirits of forest, river and moon. Her early years were blissfully removed from the war. At the age of fourteen, however, Zoya's childhood was shattered as the Burmese army attacked. With their house in flames, Zoya and her family fled. So began two terrible years of running from guns, as Zoya joined thousands of refugees hiding in the jungle. Her family scattered, Zoya sought sanctuary across the border in a Thai refugee camp. Conditions in the camp were difficult, and Zoya now had to care for her ailing mother. Zoya, a gifted pupil, was eventually able to escape, first to Bangkok and then, with her enemies still pursuing her, in 2004 she fled to the UK and claimed asylum. The following year, at a 'free Burma' march, she was plucked from the crowd to appear on the BBC, the first of countless interviews with the world's media. She became the face of a nation enslaved, rubbing shoulders with presidents and film stars. By turns uplifting, tragic and entirely gripping, this is the extraordinary true story of the girl from the jungle who became an icon of a suffering land.

Sergeant Rex

by Mike Dowling Damien Lewis

"In Iraq we put our lives in each other's hands (and paws) day after day. We took care of each other no matter what. Rex and I have a bond that will last for the rest of our born days. If ever there was a marine who lived up to Semper Fidelis, the motto of the Marine Corps, it's Rex." Deployed to Iraq's infamous Triangle of Death in 2004, Sergeant Mike Dowling and his military working dog Rex were part of the first Marine Corps military K9 teams sent to the front lines of combat since Vietnam. It was Rex's job to sniff out weapons caches, suicide bombers, and IEDs, the devastating explosives that wreaked havoc on troops and civilians alike. It was Mike's job to lead Rex into the heart of danger time and time again, always trusting Rex to bring them both back alive. Dowling had turned twenty-five and Rex three just after they arrived in Iraq. Neither of them had any idea what to expect, and no training could fully prepare them for this job. An animal lover since childhood, Dowling had fostered and trained dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and he was determined to serve in the military's K9 unit after joining the Marines. On their first patrols in Iraq, Rex suffered a seemingly incurable fear of explosions and gunfire, but with Mike at the other end of his leash, Rex gained the courage to perform his duty. Filled with harrowing tales of knife-edge bomb-detection work, including an extraordinary baptism by fire, Sergeant Rex is a heart-pounding account of how an unbreakable human-canine bond helped Mike and Rex to stay focused on their mission and save countless lives. Dowling takes us into the searing 130-degree heat, the choking dust, and the ever-present threat of violent attack that seemed to permeate Iraq's streets. We experience Dowling's visceral fear of walking down an IED-laden alley where dismemberment or death can come with any footstep, only his trusted partner, Rex, by his side. Loyalty is one of the hallmarks of any good Marine, and nowhere is that quality more evident than in this astonishing account of Mike Dowling and Rex's wartime experiences. A moving story of how a man and a dog developed complete trust in each other in the face of terrible adversity, Sergeant Rex is an unforgettable tale of sacrifice, courage, and love.

Slave

by Damien Lewis Mende Nazer

Nazer was about 12 when raiders burned her Nuba village, killed the adults, and took 31 young children, who were sold in Sudan's capital Khartoum. She tells of her years in slavery, her flight after seven years, and her attainment of asylum in Britain. British journalist Lewis helped her escape and write her story. The memoir has no index or bibliography. Annotation 2004 Book News, Inc. , Portland, OR (booknews. com)

Tears of the Desert

by Halima Bashir Damien Lewis

Born into the Zaghawa tribe in the Sudanese desert, Halima was doted on by her father, a cattle herder, and kept in line by her formidable grandmother. A politically astute man, Halima's father saw to it that his daughter received a good education away from their rural surroundings. Halima excelled in her studies and exams, surpassing even the privileged Arab girls who looked down their noses at the black Africans. With her love of learning and her father's support, Halima went on to study medicine, and at twenty-four she became her village's first formal doctor. Yet not even the symbol of good luck that dotted her eye could protect her from the encroaching conflict that would consume her land. Janjaweed Arab militias started savagely assaulting the Zaghawa, often with the backing of the Sudanese military. Then, in early 2004, the Janjaweed attacked Bashir's village and surrounding areas, raping forty-two schoolgirls and their teachers. Bashir, who treated the traumatized victims, some as young as eight years old, could no longer remain quiet. But breaking her silence ignited a horrifying turn of events. In this harrowing and heartbreaking account, Halima Bashir sheds light on the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives being eradicated in what has surely become the most terrifying genocide of the twenty-first century. Raw and riveting, Tears of the Desert is more than just a memoir - it is Halima Bashir's global call to action.

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