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I picked up this book ready to judge it, not by the cover but by the author. Amanda, I was ready to judge you for boarding a plane to war-torn Islamic Somalia, ready to judge the foolishness and audacity of your commitment.

And then, I read.

Your words crafted an image of the unthinkable. My judgement melted into a constellation of horror, compassion, hope, fear, and countless incidences of awe. You revealed what the human body and mind could survive, and survived it yourself. And even beyond that, you amplified the voices around you. I heard the steady tremble of a Somali woman who risked her life to save a stranger. I heard the jeers of boys who–indoctrinated by the jihad–raped and beat you. You did not paint them as faceless abusers, but allowed them complexity and humanity in your writing: an act of astounding courage. You shattered the simple caricatures of victim and terrorist, and told a fuller story.

Among other hats, I wear the beret of a junior high English teacher. It is my mission and passion to teach my students to write from a place that is bold and raw, and to do so for a better world.

I would really (really) love to take you for coffee. Will you let me?

Avid fan, ally in writing, and fellow Calgarian,

Lesley Machon