memoirs
The problems in developing countries are often viewed as too big to find solutions. Because of this, many people are deterred from putting in seemingly futile efforts to alleviate a problem. But, they are more likely to join the fight when they learn the individual names and faces of those living under such conditions. These five memoirs about overcoming poverty highlight success stories and seek to mobilize people with a renewed sense of hope.

5 Memoirs About Overcoming Poverty

  1. Masaji Ishikawa recalls escaping from North Korea in “A River in Darkness.” With Japanese heritage from his mother and Korean from his father, he found himself caught between two worlds. When his father realized he could no longer tolerate the discrimination he faced in Japan, the family moved to North Korea. They arrived with the promise of paradise and found, simply put, quite the opposite. Ishikawa was only thirteen years old.In this memoir, he describes atrocious living conditions with graphic detail, unparalleled by any other nation in the world. The regime controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives, and Ishikawa tells readers that “the penalty for thinking was death.” More than any of the five memoirs about overcoming poverty, “A River in Darkness” highlights an ongoing crisis.Since North Korea remains untouched by the rest of the world, it’s difficult to extend support to those still living under the dictatorship. But Ishikawa’s story is one of many that prove North Koreans are waking up to the reality of their oppression. Gradually, more people are choosing to gain control over their destinies.
  2. When Jacqueline Novogratz donated a sweater to Goodwill, she never expected to encounter a young boy wearing it on the streets of Rwanda. It ended up being the namesake for her book entitled “The Blue Sweater.” She holds onto this memory as an important message of interconnectivity and the responsibility to help people in need.Her travels to various countries revealed economic injustice along with a lack of credit access for those with low incomes. This led her to help open the first bank in Rwanda available to women. Along with numerous other initiatives through The Acumen Fund, Novogratz learned that charity is fleeting compared to the sustainability of helping innovators launch businesses to benefit millions of people.
  3. Several reporters sought to overcome poverty by being a voice for untold stories in developing countries. Maya Ajmera, joined by co-authors Sarah Strunk and Olateju Omolodun, wrote “Extraordinary Girls” about what girlhood looks like across the world. Despite cultural differences, the authors work to prove that all girls can find common ground in the desire to make their dreams come true.Their book showcases girls such as Alexandra Nechita from Romania, an exceptional painter whose work was published in a collection by the age of eleven. Through this and many other success stories, the book’s purpose is to encourage girls to be active in their communities rather than feel as if their only option is to fulfill traditional gender roles.
  4. Katherine Boo sheds light on the ramshackle town of Annawadi in “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”. This book illustrates how members of this community responded to India’s promise for renewed economic prosperity amid a global recession. A young man named Abdul discovered the value of reselling possessions thrown out by the wealthy. Others sought to change the course of politics by climbing the social ranks, like the Annawadi community member who became the first woman in that settlement to be a college graduate. These stories are about relying on pure grit to succeed in life when the economic system favors only the rich.
  5. The last of these five memoirs about overcoming poverty is “Teach a Woman to Fish” by Ritu Sharma. It’s a reinterpretation of the gendered language in this saying: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” She argues that if women are taught the same thing, everyone will be fed too.Sharma helped found a business run by women in Honduras, giving them a chance to break free from the household sphere and gain financial independence. Other countries she visited include Sri Lanka, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso. In the book, readers can also find tips for shopping in ways that support female entrepreneurs and email templates if they feel inspired to speak with their members of Congress about this important cause.

All the authors in these five memoirs about overcoming poverty have discovered important lessons about global issues through real-life experiences. They write about them in the hopes that people will no longer be complacent in the face of a problem that, contrary to what some might believe, can be solved.

Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr