The Dark World: Slave by Mende Nazer

by Jeff Abbott on March 22, 2009

This is a brutal book. We would like to think of slavery as a nightmare from a distant past, but the truth is that slavery–in all its horror–is alive and well in corners of the world. Slave is one young woman’s account of being owned by other people–powerless, terrified, made to feel she has no intrinsic value.

Mende Nazer grew up in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. She has a relatively happy childhood; she does well in school and hopes one day to be a doctor. At the age of twelve, she is captured in a slaving raid by Arab militiamen and many in her village are killed. Taken to a government camp, she is then given to a slave trader and hauled off to Khartoum. The trader sells her to a wealthy couple, who beat and imprison Mende in their nice modern home. She eats scraps. She cleans and works all day. She has no one to love her, no one to express a moment’s kindness. The emotional and physical abuse is unending. She dreams of a reunion with her family. Only when she is traded off to her “owner’s” relative in London does she have a chance for freedom. 
I have read a lot of books about bad people. I suppose at times I get numb to the evil that people do. But reading Mende’s account–and knowing that there are many many children in her situation–you just feel a constantly deepening sense of outrage. This is what it would be like to be owned. This is what it would be like to have no sense of freedom, no ability to express yourself. This is what it is like to live in constant terror. This is what it would be like to have no hope in your life.
There are reports that suggest modern slavery is on the rise. If you want to learn more about this issue, Mende Nazer’s haunting memoir is a good place to start.

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