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Unbowed [Hardcover]

Wangari Maathai
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Oct 2006
Hugely charismatic, humble, and possessed of preternatural luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a single mother of three, recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.

Born in a rural village in 1940, Wangari Maathai was already an iconoclast as a child, determined to get an education even though most girls were uneducated. We see her studying with Catholic missionaries, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, and becoming the first woman both to earn a PhD in East and Central Africa and to head a university department in Kenya. We witness her numerous run-ins with the brutal Moi government. She makes clear the political and personal reasons that compelled her, in 1977, to establish the Green Belt Movement, which spread from Kenya across Africa and which helps restore indigenous forests while assisting rural women by paying them to plant trees in their villages. We see how Maathai’s extraordinary courage and determination helped transform Kenya’s government into the democracy in which she now serves as assistant minister for the environment and as a member of Parliament. And we are with her as she accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in recognition of her “contribution to sustainable development, human rights, and peace.”

In Unbowed, Wangari Maathai offers an inspiriting message of hope and prosperity through self-sufficiency.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st Edition edition (3 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307263487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307263483
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.7 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,789,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Wangari Maathai's Memoir is direct. Honest, and beautifully written - a gripping account of modern Africa's trials and triumphs, a universal story of courage, persistence, and success against great odds in a noble cause.' -- Bill Clinton

`As this inspiring memoir shows Maathai's work is about a lot more than getting women to plant trees ... The more difficulties Maathai faced, the more determined she became ... Her book wonderfully demonstrates that you don't need to be in a position of power to start doing something about your environment.' -- The Sunday Times

`Maathai's book is frank and moving ... like a Nelson Mandela or a Mahatma Gandhi, Maathai stands way above most mortals.'
-- The Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

'Wangari Maathai is a prophet for our time and Unbowed is a call to arms for all of us who feel that the planet is overwhelmed by careless, corrupt or violent leadership. I have long suspected that the voice to lead us forward would come out of Africa, and it has - a voice of humor, sense, strength and compassion. Read this book and pass it on.' Alexandra Fuller

In Unbowed, we are in the presence of a hugely charismatic yet humble woman whose remarkable story carries with it an inspiring message of hope. Hers is an extraordinary story, spanning different worlds and changing times, and revealing what the courage, determination, tenacity and humour of one good woman can achieve; how as small a thing as planting a seedling and watering it can made all the difference in the world.

'Inspirational... The more difficulties Maathai faced, the more determined she became... Her book wonderfully demonstrates that you don't need to be in a position of power to start doing something about your environment.' The Sunday Times

'Maathai's book is frank and moving... Like a Nelson Mandela or a Mahatma Gandhi, Maathai stands way above most mortals'. Guardian

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring story 23 May 2008
Wangari Maathai was born in 1940 in rural Kenya and went on to become the first woman from Eastern and Central Africa to gain a PhD in 1971. Over 30 years later, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her "contribution to sustainable development, human rights and peace".

In her own words, Maathai tells the story of her journey from rural Kenya, through the ivory tower and on to the murky waters of Kenyan politics during the oppresive regime of Daniel Arap Moi. There are detailed accounts of how her conservation group (the Green Belt Movement) was born and rose to prominence, and the many times she had to face brutal government repression as she stood up for the environment and human rights. In her life and her musings, the delicate links connecting the environment, poverty and human dignity are shown clearly to the reader. This is also a very human story. Maathai recounts many details of her personal struggles- discrimination at work, the bitterness of a public divorce, losing her job because of power politics, struggling with a bare existence, the fight to give her children a good life, regardless.

All these elements combine to make this book an inspiring story, reminding one of what one is capable of if persistence is added to a sincere commitment to professed values.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perseverance and hope 5 April 2007
When Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, questions were raised regarding her choice by the Nobel Committee. Why should an environmentalist receive a prize that was identified with peace and human rights, voiced the critics. Reading Maathai's memoir sets the record straight, and justifying her selection for the award. In this fascinating and very personal account, she paints a vivid picture of her life, embedded in the realities of Kenya before and since independence. Her experiences during the Moi regime, in particular, demonstrate the challenges a young educated woman confronted in the face of traditional prejudice as well as political oppression.

Raised in rural Kenya, Wangari Maathai never lost the deep connection with the land and its the natural beauty. Over the years, she noticed the changes and the increasing fragility of the environment. Trees for her became a symbol and a tool for protecting the vulnerable ecosystem and assisting rural population to stem the growing poverty.

Thanks to the intervention of her older brother and the support of her mother, she was able to attend school beyond the primary level, which was all girls at the time could reach for. As luck had it and, being a bright student, her convent school was one of those selected to send graduates to the US under what became known as the Kennedy Airlift: a program to send young Africans to American colleges for further education. These young people were being primed to become future leaders of their societies in the soon to be independent African states. Maathai returned to Kenya with a Master's degree in biology, a subject that for her combined her scientific interests with her deep love for her natural environment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 27 Sep 2006
Professor Wangari Maathai is truly one of the most important voices of our time. This dynamic and indefatigable Kikuyu woman of Kenya has illuminated rays of light through the dark clouds of Kenya, and so Africa. Standing in the face of oppression and unbearable adversity she faced when Kenya was not a land of freedom, but a state of oppression and discord, it was Wangari's resilient voice, her never-ending effort to stand strong in the winds of injustice, and her ceaseless love of mankind that has in many ways begun the great changes toward democracy and freedom for all individuals not just in Kenya, but in Africa. As the Cold War has, as Professor Maathai clearly and carefully points out, changed the dynamics of government in Africa, the reader becomes aware, in a different way than what is typically presented in the press, of the many issues involved with the challenges that the world faces through the daily experiences of those who seek `Freedom'. Clearly, as the world becomes closer and more connected, the issues that continue in Africa are critical issues that we, as a progressive society, must not simply acknowledge, but do something about. Acting on what is right . . . standing up for your beliefs . . . standing down oppression and hatred . . . and nurturing Mother Earth as she continues to nurture and provide for all, are themes this visionary African woman - who is the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize - shares with the world in her brilliantly written life story. Readers across the world - men and women of all colors and creeds and beliefs will tap into the determination of this extraordinary activist who has taught so many about how love of each other can grow through respecting and nurturing the land we live on. Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very engaging, well written and interesting 5 Feb 2009
A life that has been lived with dignity and passion. This woman is an example to follow by other generations. The book has been written in a very clear and simple way. The author has transmitted her passion for nature. I recommend this book
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
This is the first autobiography I've read so it was a new experience. The beginning was a bit slow, but after her education it got very good and the work was amazing.
Published 28 days ago by H Awan
5.0 out of 5 stars Wangari Maathai "Unbowed"
This is a book from a Scientist from Kenya Africa and although she is revered by great statesmen the majority of people around the world do not know her. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ms. C. B. Mclaglen
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbowed by Wangaru Maathai
An inspiring life story.
I thought that the first part of her life, describing her education record up to her return to Kenya was the weakest part and seemed more like a... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Atticus
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and empowering
I read this book in 2 days - couldn't put it down.
As Bill Clinton puts it: 'Wangari Maathai's memoir is direct, honest, and beautifully written - gripping'. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Kiki
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbowed: My Autobiography
i bought it for my wife.. she is a voracious reader.. book arrived on time.. and my wife is happy with the book..!!
Published on 17 April 2012 by prabakar dharmeswaran
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbowed-my autobiography
This autobiography was a compelling read. i had heard re this amazing lady only when she passed away in Kenya in October last year. Read more
Published on 28 Feb 2012 by Mrs. J. D. Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars must read
its good, being a Kenyan I like the way she has shown her struggle through the years to be where she is. i have so much to relate to in her book
Published on 18 Mar 2010 by robby
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid
This is a wonderful book, telling the life story of a remarkable and courageous lady. Prof Maathai's account is at once wry, compassionate, impassioned and reasonable. Read more
Published on 4 Jun 2008 by M. V. Clarke
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