Review of I am Evelyn Amony: Reclaiming my life from the Lord’s Resistance Army

It is possible you haven’t heard about the conflict in Uganda at all. If you did, it was most likely as the result of watching KONY 2012, a 30-min viral video spread in March of that year to raise awareness about the children abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony, whose name is repeated 45 times. During 26 years he abducted thousands of women and children to make them part of his army. Evelyn was one of them. That’s not her story.

Evelyn refuses to be defined by the acts she was a victim of, by decisions forced upon her and by the narratives that we find convenient to enforce a political agenda or promote human rights. Yes, she was one of Kony’s wives and yes, she learned how to shoot and defend herself. When confronted with her past, her answer is not a “yes I’m that person”but one more insightful. “That’s what happened.”

Book Cover © by The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

In I am Evelyn Amony one will learn about Evelyn’s childhood, her family and expectations for the future, her life with the LRA and horrific stories about war and the struggle for reintegration. As you can imagine not all of these are beautiful images, some of them are simply crude. One can listen to this stories and be surprised or moved. Sadly, as we approach reality, we soon realize that war and violence in general are a common occurrence where the most horrible acts are normalized. The words of Evelyn are a true testimony to this. “A bomb exploded”, “we could see the flesh spread on the three,” “they shot at me,” as if each one of these actions did not deserve a three-page narrative on the profound emotional and historical complexities that surrounded them.

“That was the point I started calling the gun Margaret, my mum’s name, because I felt my gun was like my mum. The only thing is that the gun doesn’t tell you stories.” Maybe that’s why.

Evelyn is a very sweet and strong woman who dealt with Kony even when everyone else was terrified, she was beaten and mistreated by multiple people during her entire life and yet managed to comfort others who suffered at her side. Evelyn raised her children during war and found a profession afterwards. We learn the most about her aspirations when on March 8, 2010 — the day she learned Women have a Day — , she tells us about what it is to be an Acioli woman and the dignity she finds in carrying simple tasks: to clean, to cook a traditional dish, to understand women have rights and a future, even those who carried a gun.

It is really hard to put it all together. Sometimes one can read this as fiction and find beauty on another person’s suffering. That happened to me. However, the final chapter was not closure for me. There was something else I wanted to know.

I searched her name on Facebook and found her through a friend in common. She is real. She is right there. Evelyn Amony has being tagged in pictures just like any of us. She smiles. She is my sister’s age.