Find Me Unafraid: Coffee Shoppe Reads (Review)


There are some books in which you are able to escape to a land of fantasy and get totally immersed in a fictional story. Then there are others that bring you to a world you perhaps were unfamiliar with, that is a reality for millions of people. Find Me Unafraid is one of those books. I happen to love stories of real world struggle and conflict (hence, why I am a Sociology major), so when I happened to see a photo of this book on Instagram randomly one day, I added it to my Amazon cart with little research into the book or what it was about. Sometimes, a title or a cover just gets me and more often than not, the books I choose on a whim like this, end up being ones that I enjoy greatly. I have a fairly good track record when it comes to choosing books like this.

Find Me Unafraid tells the story of Kennedy Odede and his life growing up and living in the Kibera slum in Kenya, Africa. It also tells the story of Jessica Posner and her experience following a visit to Kibera while a student attending Wesleyan University, in which she meets Kennedy and helps him with his organization, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). His goal is to help his family and neighbors in the hopes that they are able to rise above the cycle of poverty. Together, they embark on a journey that is filled with perseverance, optimism and love. The book chronicles their experiences from both Kennedy and Jessica's perspectives.

One of the things I loved about this book, was that its story was given from both Kennedy and Jessica's points of view. Kennedy provides his life experiences and what is a harsh reality for many not just in this Kenyan slum, but around the world. The constant violence and the fight to stay alive amidst death, disease and despair is profound. This type of detail is important and helps to give greater power to their story and the work that they do through SHOFCO. Jessica's perspective is also worthwhile as she sees this world though the eyes of someone with great privilege. Her exposure to Kennedy's world makes the stories that we often hear about only in the news, real. Not just for her, but also for the reader. In contrast, the relationship that blossoms between them provides an enjoyable balance to the serious conflict that is a reality and theme of the book.

Their relationship brings them on a journey which for Kennedy, includes the opportunity to attend Wesleyan University on a full scholarship. His experience coming to America for the first time brought some levity to the book for me as he learned so many things for the first time while absorbing a completely foreign world and culture.

Upon his arrival into the United States, he meets with a woman named Linda, whom he calls his American mom as she is someone he had communicated with through letters over the years. She takes him through his first drive-through and his innocent reaction is humorous:

"The food and the drinks just fall into the car window and she pays with a card. What is going on in America? You don't even have to get out of the car and things just fall automatically into your lap like this? I am shocked. I can't explain to Linda and Jessica the feelings I have. Oh America!" (p. 227). 

There are things that we might view as commonplace in western society that can be alien to others and this exemplifies that reality. His perspective also provides great insight, in my opinion, to an issue that is heavily debated today, and a hot-button topic in our current political climate: immigration.

"I follow the news about immigration and so-called illegals with great interest. Here I am, a foreigner who has every intention of going back to my country after I complete my education. There is so much fear that people like me will take jobs away from "true" Americans. It seems to be that the United States has forgotten its glory. It was once the only country in the world that opened its door to immigrants. America has enjoyed the glory of being the superpower exactly because different people from different places contributed to its success" (p. 233). 

I think that this excerpt can prove as a reminder for some of the fact that America is a land built by many. Immigration is what has made this country what it is. I enjoyed following Kennedy's journey through college. Through this experience they are able to grow SHOFCO in ways that otherwise might not have been possible. As Kennedy shares his story and the story of others in his country, his work gains useful exposure that leads to powerful opportunities and collaborations with organizations such as the Newman's Own Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. SHOFCO now has powerful initiatives focused on girls education, health, community empowerment and water & sanitation. SHOFCO believes that by providing girls with education, they can change their life chances and ultimately shape them to then change their own communities. The work of Kennedy and Jessica and the whole SHOFCO team is invaluable. Find Me Unafraid makes that very clear. It is a book I would suggest everyone read as it provides an in-depth look at the far reaching and everlasting effects that poverty has, as well as the powerful impact that tools such as education can have in breaking that cycle.

Please note: Any funds earned through the affiliate links in this post (that link to Amazon), will be donated to SHOFCO. I will also make a matching donation for any revenue earned through affiliate links on this post. I highly encourage everyone to read this wonderful book! 

2016 Reading Goal: 4/12 completed. 

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