The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria

Helon Habila. Columbia Global Reports, $12.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-9971264-6-4

Poet and novelist Habila (Oil on Water) explores the rise of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram and the fallout after their 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from a government-sponsored school. It is a dispatch from the front lines, as Habila travels to the town of Chibok, where the landscape is riddled with burned tanks and bullet holes, and vigilantes pick up the slack for the inadequate and ineffectual military. He chronicles the founding of Boko Haram, their early clashes with authorities, and their subsequent reign of terror, providing a nuanced window into the psyche of Nigerian Islamic extremism. He also traces the Nigerian government’s history of “political assassinations, palace coups, and electoral thuggery.” In Chibok, Habila meets with a pastor whose two nieces were taken and with the mother of another victim, the latter offering a chilling account of the night of the kidnapping. In nearby Maiduguri, Habila reports on conditions in refugee camps for those displaced by Boko Haram’s attacks. The book culminates in a gripping interview with three girls who escaped. As a native Nigerian, Habila incorporates vital background knowledge on the situation in Chibok and the surrounding area; as a poet, he adds sensitivity and eloquence, capturing the raw emotion of the wounded town. (Dec.)