Book Review: Facing the Lion

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Ages 9-18

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The Masai

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This outstanding book is so rich and detail and so well written that readers will be going back to it many times to recall details and anecdotes that highlight the life of the author.

Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is a member of the Masai tribe, a group of people who live in Kenya and Tanzania and, despite modern achievements all around them, cling to their ancient ways and need only their all-important cows to survive. (Click here to read more about the Masai.)

Lekuton regales the reader with astonishing tale after astonishing tale, all describing how the Masai live off the their land, and their cattle. They think of walking 20 or 30 miles in a day or two. Holding nothing more than thin spears, they fearlessly face down lions that prey on their cattle. They live in straw huts, wear beads and necklaces and braids, and build their lives around the cows that seem to choose their new homes every few months.

Lekuton was one of a handful of children that went to school. He proved to be a good learner; for this, he was taunted by other children, who "didn't have time for such learning." And in an amazing example of Masai priorities, Lekuton's whole village moves one year (because the cattle have moved, of course) and he has to walk even farther to school (because, of course, the school hadn't moved). This lasted just a year, after which he lived in a new dormitory. This situation also proved a challenge because when he wanted to go home, he didn't always know where that was, since the cattle and the village might have moved again while young Joseph was still in the school year.

One unifying force between all the children was soccer. Joseph proved to be quite good, and it was this skill that eventually led to his ... well, read the book for yourself. The things that happen to this boy who quickly becomes a man are extraordinary.

Certain passages from this book serve to illuminate just what kind of people the Masai are:

  • "Some people might say our society is primitive, but I think it is the best fairest system that I know. Our system is based not only on the family, but also on the village itself. No one goese hungry. We take care of each other. We watch out for one another. Children respect their elders. If children do wrong, any adult can correct them. That means everyone in the village is equal."
  • "We learned the same things in school that children learn all over the world--reading, writing, arithmetic. At first we didn't have paper and pencil, so we learned to write with a stick in the dirt floor of the school."
  • "We finally reached home at six or seven in the evening. It was about 40 miles, but we had covered it in about 12 hours because we were running most of the time."

In one amazing episode after another, the life of Joseph Lekuton astounds the reader. This book does more than highlight a people whose old ways are often seen as anachronistic. This book shines the light of truth on the author, his thoughts and dreams and values and accomplishments, and the author shines through with a gentle smile and an amazing storytelling ability that are as compelling as any fiction writer. Get this book. You'll be amazed!

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