Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Mighty Be Our Powers

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War
By Leymah Gbowee with Carol Mithers 
Beast Books September 2011
230 pages
From the library 

Leymah Gbowee graduates from high school with dreams of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. But the Liberian war is on the horizon and her life, and those of her family and neighbors, will be shattered in unimaginable ways. Years later, Leymah is looking for a way to provide for her children in a country in ruins. She starts working for a church program that reaches out to refugees. She realizes the power of a group of women coming together and starts her own organization – Liberian Mass Action for Peace. She convened groups of women, Muslims and Christians, to pray for peace for their war-torn nation. They peacefully protested as a sea of mothers and sisters in white against the brutal leaders whose quest for power was destroying the people of Liberia. This is the story of Leymah’s experience in the war and her efforts to bring peace to her country.

“A whole generation of young men had no idea who they were without a gun in their hands. Several generations of women were widowed, had been raped, seen their daughters and mothers raped, and their children kill and be killed. Neighbors had turned against neighbors; young people had lost hope, and old people, everything they’d painstakingly earned. To a person, we were traumatized. We had survived the war, but now we had to remember how to live. Peace isn’t a movement – it’s a very long process.”

This slim book is so many things. It is the story of a brave mother who escaped an abusive relationship and worked to provide a better future for her babies and all of the babies of her country. It is the story of a young woman finding her voice, finding her passion and her place in the world. It is a behind the scenes look at the birth and day to day operations of a movement. It is the story of an incredible group of women who stood up against armies with guns to say “enough.” They would not live in fear any longer, waiting to be raped, or killed, or driven from their homes yet again.

Gbowee’s voice is brutally honest. She admits the failures that she made within her organization and with her children when she picked the movement over them. She talks about the difficulties she had as a leader – the men who didn’t take her seriously and the women within the movement who turned on her. She recognizes her hypocrisy in leading a group of women in prayer while sleeping with a married man.

This was an intriguing book, but I think it may have been marketed incorrectly. Even the title is misleading. Sisterhood and prayer were vital in their campaign to end the war. Sex was less so, unless it is meant to refer to gender. They briefly mention a sex strike, but it’s such a tiny incident and Gbowee has no actual participation in it. While Gbowee explains the crisis sufficiently for the uninformed reader, this is not an in depth analysis of the Liberian war. I did learn about the country and its struggles, but I think I could get an additional book or two to really get a full picture.

Leymah Gbowee was the very deserving recipient of the Noble Peace Prize in 2011. When her country was falling apart around her, she found the courage to unite the women of Liberia and fight for peace. Her candid and compelling story will remind you that one person can make a huge difference in the world.


  1. This sounds like an inspiring read. I can't comprehend what it must be like to live through a situation like that which happened in Liberia.

    1. I think it's so important to read things like this book. It helps you keep things in perspective.