Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Unforgettable Evening With Emmanuel Jal

Emmanuel Jal, an African Hip-Hop star and recent author of War Child, will be coming to Waterloo, February 19th, as part of his Canadian book tour. Words Worth Books is pleased to be sponsoring him as part of the store’s Words Worth Hearing event series. Jal will only be making three appearances in Canada as part of his promotion tour.
In the mid-1980s, Emmanuel Jal was a seven year old Sudanese boy, living in a small village with his family. But as Sudan’s civil war moved closer—with the Islamic government seizing tribal lands for water, oil, and other resources—Jal’s family moved again and again, seeking peace. One terrible day, Jal was separated from his mother, and later learned she had been killed. After her death, he was taken from his family home and conscripted into the Christian Sudanese Liberation Army, one of 10,000 child soldiers, in Sudan’s bloody civil war. Jal was a “jenajesh” or child warrior, put into battle carrying an AK-47 that was taller than he was. By the time he was 13, he was a veteran of two civil wars and had seen hundreds of his fellow child soldiers reduced to taking unspeakable measures as they struggled to survive on the killing fields of Southern Sudan. After a series of harrowing events, he was rescued by a British aid worker who smuggled him into Nairobi to raise him as her own son.
Shortly after he was adopted, the aid worker was killed in a car accident. Jal was left to his own devices and the kindness of strangers to go to school and rehabilitate back into regular society. At this time there was no re-entry program for Sudanese child soldiers and Jal found himself ostracized by many people in Nairobi. To help ease the pain of what he had experienced, he started singing. In 2005, he released his first album, Gua (”peace” in his native Nuer tongue), with the title track broadcast across Africa over the BBC and becoming a number one hit in Kenya. Since then Jal has won worldwide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop with its message of peace and reconciliation born out of his experiences as a child soldier in Sudan. He rhymes in English, Arabic, Nuer and Dinka. He has released two other albums; Ceasfire in 2005 and War Child in 2008. His music has been featured on three episodes of E.R., the National Geographic documentary God Grew Tired of Us, and in the film Blood Diamonds. Jal performed at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebration. He has also performed and addressed delegates from the UN and has toured in the US and Europe with his music and important message of peace and reconciliation.
War Child, a full-length documentary about Jal’s astounding life was released in early 2008 to great acclaim. It won the audience choice award at the Tribeca film festival. Now Jal has written a companion novel to the film, also titled War Child. It is published by St.Martin’s Press, $27.95 hardcover. Shocking, inspiring, and finally hopeful, War Child is a memoir by a unique young man, who is determined to tell his story and in so doing bring peace to his homeland.
"Disturbing and visceral...Jal tells his story in spare, direct, and searing prose that leaves nothing to the imagination and offers a close-up view of the damage done to the psyches of children turned into warriors." --Library Journal

"Quietly stirring."--The New York Times

"Frank, unsparing...[A] searing portrait of a war-torn youth turned community advocate and role model."--Kirkus Reviews

Jal now lives in London, England. He is a spokesman for Amnesty International and Oxfam, and has done work for Save the Children, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Christian Aid, and other charities, and has established his own charitable foundation, Gua Africa, to help former Sudanese child soldiers.

The event takes place on Thursday February 19th at Princess Twin Cinemas, 46 King St. N. in Uptown Waterloo at 7pm. Emmanuel will be reading from his book, followed by a screening of his documentary. Tickets are $12, available at the door or at the bookstore, 100 King St. S. in Waterloo.

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