The Jasmine Years: From My African Notebooks
by Dr. Johanna Maula

"African history is full of exploitation and inhuman treatment, forgotten promises, hopes betrayed, arrogance and inaction in the face of basic human rights, and in most cases these have involved forces outside of Africa."

Spanning several decades and countries, this memoir reveals the author's academically informed and deeply personal fascination with the vast African continent. Dr. Johanna Maula's lifelong love of Africa is sparked as a child in the late 1960s, when Dr. Erkka Maula and his family relocate from Finland to Nigeria, where "the perfect equatorial light" engulfs the young Nordic family. During these years, the author first observes Nigeria's flora, fauna, culture, and religion with the keen insights of a child. Decades later in Tanzania, she realizes her "fate is somehow connected" with Africa while at the same time recognizing the sometimes obvious resentment towards "outsiders in Africa." In Porto Novo, Benin, she notes both political unrest and economic corruption alongside unforgettable sights, sounds, and people. Years later in Ethiopia, she falls in love with the undeniable grace and beauty of the Ethiopians she meets, while witnessing how economic divides and past political conflicts have left women and children often desperate and malnourished. Although she falls in love in Ethiopia, she relocates once more to Tunisia, a beguiling country on the brink of a revolution: the Jasmine Revolution.

Throughout Dr. Maula's memoir, a complex portrait of not only each country, but often each city and ethnic group is revealed. Her observations maintain that the socioeconomic concerns of one African country are not representative of this entire culturally rich and diverse continent. Her detailed personal accounts further illustrate that each country faces unique obstacles governed by politics, geography, history, religion, and culture. Still, as globalization is increasingly felt in Africa with Asian and Indian investments on the rise, Dr. Maula prompts readers to probe further and explore ways for developing African countries to experience growth that is beneficial to all their citizens, men and women and alike. Dr. Maula's observations are not only well-informed but made richer and more compelling by her years of experience and passion for this dynamic continent.

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