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Political Science Human Rights

Drink the Bitter Root

A Writer's Search for Justice and Redemption in Africa

by (author) Gary Geddes

Publisher
Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Jul 2011
Category
Human Rights, General
  • Hardback

    ISBN
    9781553654582
    Publish Date
    Jul 2011
    List Price
    $32.95
  • eBook

    ISBN
    9781553659693
    Publish Date
    Jul 2011
    List Price
    $26.95

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Description

Set across Africa, this is a deeply engaging investigation of trauma, justice and the redemptive powers of imagination from an internationally acclaimed author.

 

Drink the Bitter Root is a provocative, emotionally charged account of one writer's travels in sub-Saharan Africa. Haunted by the 1993 murder of a Somali teenager by Canadian soldiers in what became known as the Somalia affair, and long fascinated by the "dark continent," Gary Geddes decides at age 68 to make the trip. His explorations are guided by questions: How can a tribunal in a suburb of Europe change things on the ground in Africa? Is international aid improving the lives of ordinary Africans or contributing to their suffering?

 

Geddes' search takes him first to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In Rwanda and Uganda, he attends grassroots criminal courts and encounters rescued street kids, women raped and infected with HIV during the genocide, and victims mutilated by the Lord's Resistance Army. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Somaliland, with the help of fixers and the occasional armed guard, Geddes finds himself in the instructive -- at times redeeming -- presence of child soldiers, refugees and poets-turned–freedom fighters. Of particular note is his time in Somaliland, where he learns about the country's concern with poetry as "a healing and a subversive art"; Somalia is known as a nation of poets, and Geddes attends various events that bear that appellation out, including a four-hour extravaganza of poetry devoted to celebrating the camel attended by 500 people.

 

The stories Geddes brings back are haunting, uplifting, stark and sometimes unbearable, but all are presented with the essential lightness Jean-Paul Sartre insisted is so crucial to good writing. This masterful blend of history, reportage, testimonial and memoir is a condemnation of the horrors spawned by greed and corruption and an eloquent tribute to human resilience.

About the author

Gary Geddes was born in Vancouver and raised mostly on the west coast, where he gill netted, loaded boxcars at BC Sugar Refinery, stocked shelves at Woodwards, worked as a fishing guide at Whytecliffe, taught on Texada Island, and drove water-taxi. After doing graduate studies at Reading University in England and at the University of Toronto, he embarked on a varied career as a writer, teacher, editor, and publisher. Gary taught for twenty years at Concordia University in Montreal before returning to the west coast, where he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Canadian Culture at Western Washington University (1998-2001) and served as writer-in-residence at Green College (UBC), and the Vancouver Public Library. He has written and edited more than thirty-five books of poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, criticism, translation and anthologies, including 20th Century Poetry & Poetics and 15 Canadian Poets Times 3. His literary awards include the E.J. Pratt Medal and Prize (1970), the National Poetry Prize (1981), the Americas Best Book Award in the 1985 Commonwealth Poetry Competition, National Magazine Gold Award (1987), the Writers Choice Award (1988), Archibald Lampman Prize (1990 and 1996), the Poetry Book Society Recommendation (1996) and the Gabriela Mistral Prize (1996), which he shared with Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Vaclav Havel and with Rafael Alberti, Ernesto Cardenal, and Mario Benedetti. Gary Geddes lives on Vancouver Island, where he divides his time between Victoria and French Beach.

Gary Geddes' profile page

Awards

  • Short-listed, Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize

Editorial Reviews

"A writer that truly believes that literature has the ability to change the world for the better, Geddes has produced a work well worth reading for both its content and its call to action."

Quill & Quire

"Geddes' style mixes political reportage, history, travel, cultural analysis and personal memoir. Yet it's not an overly graphic, ravaging read. Instead, it�s told with lyrical description, humility and even humour...Part of what makes Drink the Bitter Root accessible and relatable is the fact that the ignorance Geddes confronts is not only external -- of places, people and politics -- but internal: about himself."

Focus Online

"Drink the Bitter Root has an esoteric quality, which is not surprising given Geddes' background as a poet. But this time he aims for realism and literal accuracy. He largely succeeds through the graphic accounts offered by his interviewees."

Winnipeg Free Press

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The Oysters I Bring to Banquets

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Resumption of Play, The

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70 Canadian Poets

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Kingdom Of Ten Thousand Things

An Impossible Journey From Kabul to Chiapas

by (author) Gary Geddes

Swimming Ginger

by (author) Gary Geddes

Sailing Home

A Journey Through Time, Place, and Memory

by (author) Gary Geddes

The Terracotta Army

by (author) Gary Geddes

Falsework

by (author) Gary Geddes

20th-Century Poetry and Poetics

edited by Gary Geddes

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets

contributions by Ian Adam, Robert Stamp, Tammy Armstrong, Margaret Avison, Douglas Barbour, John O. Barton, Doug Beardsley, Bonnie Bishop, E.D. Blodgett, Robert Boates, George Bowering, Tim Bowling, Jan Boydol, Gordon Burles, Murdoch Burnett, Anne Campbell, Weyman Chan, Leonard Cohen, Dennis Cooley, Joan Crate, Michael Cullen, Cyril Dabydeen, Lorne Daniel, Alexa DeWiel, Jason Dewinetz, ryan fitzpatrick, Cecelia Frey, Gary Geddes, Gail Ghai, Deborah Godin, Jim Green, Leslie Greentree, Vivian Hansen, Tom Henihan, Michael Henry, Walter Hildebrandt, Gerald Hill, Robert Hilles, Nancy Holmes, Richard Hornsey, Tom Howe, Aislinn Hunter, Bruce Hunter, Laurence Hutchman, Sally Ito, Pauline Johnson, Aleksei Kazuk, Robert Kroetsch, Fiona Lam, William Latta, Tim Lilburn, Alice Major, Kim Maltman, Miriam Mandel, Sid Marty, David McFadden, Barry McKinnon, Erin Michie, Deborah Miller, Anna Mioduchowska, James M. Moir, Colin Morton, Erín Moure, Charles Noble, P.K. Page, Rajinderpal Pal, Ruth Roach Pierson, Joseph Pivato, Roberta Rees, D.C. Reid, Monty Reid, R. rickey, Ken Rivard, Stephen Scobie, Allan Serafino, Joan Shillington, Greg Simison, Carol Ann Sokoloff, Karen Solie, Stephan Stephansson, Peter Stevens, Ivan Sundal, Anne Swannell, Vanna Tessier, Colleen Thibadeau, John O. Thompson, James M. Thurgood, Eva Tihanyi, Yvonne Trainer, Aritha Van Herk, Rosalee van Stelten, Miriam Waddington, James Wreford Watson, Wilfred Watson, Tom Wayman, Phyllis Webb, Jon Whyte, Christine Wiesenthal, Sheri-D Wilson, Christopher Wiseman, Stacie Wolfer, Rita Wong, Richard Woollatt & Jan Zwicky