cover image My Life Is Art: 11 Pillars for a Positive and Purposeful Life

My Life Is Art: 11 Pillars for a Positive and Purposeful Life

Emmanuel Jal. Counterpoint, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64622-038-0

Activist and entrepreneur Jal (War Child) provides surprisingly potent guidance for living an intentional life in this astute combination of memoir and self-help guide. Jal grew up as a child soldier in South Sudan, where he was surrounded by violence and often went hungry. That he overcame these traumas to achieve stability as an adult lends weight to his advice on how readers can increase their “ability to think, plan, organize, strategize, be compassionate, love, and exhibit wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.” Jal organizes that advice around 11 “pillars,” including meditation, gratitude, and forgiveness. Despite the positive tone, Jal doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of his early life, explaining that even after leaving his home country to live in Kenya as a teen, he remained “a troubled young man with many issues”; the physical violence that had been endemic in his early years had been replaced by “a cold war” in his mind, which produced nightmares and suicidal thoughts. Jal’s journey away from the darkness makes for inspirational reading. Even self-help skeptics are likely to be stirred. Agent: James Wills, Watson, Little. (Dec.)