The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo Hardcover – 1 Apr 2004
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In 1996 Clea Koff, author of The Bone Woman, was a graduate student of prehistoric skeletons at Berkeley when she was invited to take part in a fact-finding mission in Rwanda for the UN War Crimes Tribunal. The questions she and the other forensic specialists were to answer were: who were the victims buried in a mass grave behind the Kibuye church, and how did they die? This encounter with genocide proved pivotal in Clea's decision to become a forensic anthropologist specialising in human rights. Over the next few years, she participated in six more UN fact-finding missions in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. She uncovered the wire-bound wrists of Srebrenica massacre victims, disinterred the body of a young man in southwestern Kosovo as his grandfather looked on in silence, and discovered among the bodies of hospital patients the curious case of a Croatian with x-rays stuffed down the back of his robe.
The Bone Woman is Koff's powerful, deeply personal account of her training in human rights forensic anthropology, her growing awareness of the human dimension of genocide, and her struggle to come to terms with her role in the reconciliation and healing process of a family--and a nation. Koff details, with a no-holds-barred frankness, what day-to-day life was like as part of a dedicated, multinational team of forensic anthropologists, archaeologists, pathologists, technicians, workers and soldiers: the harsh, sometimes terrifying and potentially violent conditions under which they lived and laboured, not to mention the old bugaboo of politics. She gives a clear, informed, insider's view of her work and her struggle to maintain the necessary professional distance while coming face-to-face with the obvious brutality of the victims' deaths and the pain of the survivors.
While there is much that is similar across these missions, Koff takes special care to emphasise what is distinct to each. Each killing field has its own story. Each victim is an individual whose personhood and personal history were to be erased and rendered anonymous. Yet at the same time, each story carries a universal warning that we all must heed, so as not to fall into the error of viewing what happened in a given place and time as an isolated incident that will never be repeated. --Diana Kuprel, Amazon.ca --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'It is impossible to reach the end of The Bone Woman without great admiration for Clea Koff's tenacity and stoicism.' Caroline Moorehead, Independent 'Clea Koff's work is the place where science, idealism and humanism most intersect.' Laurence Phelan, Independent 'Fascinating... Despite the extraordinary depravity of the crimes detailed in its pages, The Bone Woman is a humane, hopeful and involving book.' Phil Whitaker, Guardian 'A hugely important book... It may be that this is the ultimate memoir of the post-Cold War decade.' Alec Russell, Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
I found it difficult to put the book down, even when the subject matter was disturbing in the extreme. Koff writes clearly and without any glorification of what she saw, and she clearly revelled in the responsibility of her job.
A fascinating account of terrible events that have a frightening habit of happening again and again during conflicts across the globe.
She is one of the people who carefully uncovered the bodies of people killed in illegal mass murders. These bodies are able to tell the tales of their deaths, and thus form a significant part of the evidence needed by the United Nations to bring people to trial for crimes against humanity.
The book tells Clea's story, telling all that she sees and hears whilst participating in such horrific investigations. That she loves her job is obvious, taking particular satisfaction in the fact that her skills mean that bodies can talk - that people who kill and then say they haven't, can no longer evade justice.
Clea's writing is very personal, humble and accessible. I appreciate that she was able to write it in such a way because I now have a much bigger understanding not only of the work that she does, but what it takes to do it. In a curious way, despite the subject matter, this made this an inspirational book for me.
In my twenties, and curious about the good and evil in the world, I would have found this book very illuminating and motivating. If you have the same curiosity, you might benefit from reading this book. Whatever your age, I am certain you will be impressed by the view of forensic work and war crimes work that is given to us by the author.
The world remained blisfully unaware while the fire raged though Rwanda, but Clea Koff takes us to a place where we can sit and reflect on a tragedy that, had it happened in a land with more natural resources or western influence, would never have happened on the scale it did.
Her account of her time actually takes you to there to listen to the accounts of people and to explain how her Anthropological work went some way to giving closure to the millions of people affected by genocide. That is not to forget the accounts of her time in Eastern Europe, equally harrowing accounts of murder and genocide, but the true scale of the African conflict really leave you feeling truly humble. This was one of the 5 largest incidents of genocide recognised as taking place in the modern world, but went largely unnoticed in the western world.
I will not tell you this book makes easy reading, it is not designed for that purpose, it is there to educate, and in terms of a thought provoking book I can say I have never read anything of its like before. If you have a list of books that you feel you must read, then please place this book somewhere near to the top of that list. You will derive no pleasure from the reading matter, but will go away with your conscience pricked and I can guarantee you will recommend someone else you know to read it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gruelling account of Clea's time in Rwanda, but does not sensationalize what happened there. An excellent bookPublished 11 months ago by tilkat3
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