Friday, February 27, 2009

Blogger Gives Heart of Diamonds Four-Star Review

Heart of Diamonds got a four-star review at J. Kaye's Book Blog. Among other things, J.Kaye said,

" of the most positive aspects of the book was Donelson’s realistic portrayal of the main characters and the warlike conditions in Africa."
For links to more reviews, visit

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rape In Congo Exposed by "Ruined"

The Pulitzer flags should be flying over Lynn Nottage's acclaimed play, Ruined, which I saw recently during its NY run. The play exposes the horrors of terror rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the stories of victims of the crime.

Nottage chose to write a play about the strife in the Congo much the same way I was drawn into the crisis with Heart of Diamonds. She started out to write something else--in her case, an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage--but was compelled by the reality of the modern tragedy in the DRC to create an entirely different work. The world should be thankful she made that choice.

Ruined centers on Mama Nadi and her tavern cum whorehouse in the Ituri region of the Congo. The stories of Mama Nadi's "girls" are told in a swelling chorus of pathos among a parade of soldiers, rebels, miners, and traders who show up looking for relief from the violence wracking the countryside.

Each of the women tells a story of how they were victimized by the conflict. Josephine (played by Cherise Boothe), the daughter of a village chief, had been cast adrift when the social structure of her homeland was destroyed by war over the region's mineral wealth. Salima (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) was snatched by rebels and used as a sex slave for five months before she returned to her village, only to be rejected by her husband and family.

The plot revolves around Sophie (Condola Rashad), who was "ruined" by a gang of rebels who mutilated her genitals in an act of terror rape all too common in the Congo today. Rashad's performance perfectly captures the tragic effects of the crime. Her sweetly innocent face contrasts sharply with the awkward way her body moves in response to the constant pain from her injuries.

In an telling touch, most of the soldiers, rebels, and miners are played by the same cast members in alternating roles, emphasizing the shifting nature of loyalties and alliances in the real conflict playing out today in the Congo.

Mama Nadi is the star of the play and Saidah Arrika Ekulona portrays her as a flamboyant, strong-willed survivor, hard-crusted but soft-hearted, a woman for the ages. Her bravery in the face of the ever-heightening violence is the pillar that supports the entire play.

The emotional climax comes early in the second act (in a scene that reminded me greatly of Ogastine's story in Heart of Diamonds) when Salima delivers a soliloquy about her horrific experience. The audience literally gasped when she described the details of her capture, then you could hear them squirming uncomfortably as she told how she was used as a sex slave. The theater was struck silent when she related her return to her village expecting succor only to be given the back of the hand and driven away by her husband.

The heart-wrenching, mind-stopping production premiered last fall at Chicago's Goodman Theatre and moved to Manhattan Theater Club's Stage 1 at City Center (where I saw it) this month for a limited time. The run in New York has been extended, but it will probably end soon, so I strongly recommend you order tickets today.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reader Comment on Heart of Diamonds

I heard recently from a friend I made at the January 17 Congo Peace Rally in Washington:

Hello Dave,

It was great meeting you in Washington D.C.

I’ve just finished reading your book, Heart of Diamonds. It was a great read which I thoroughly enjoyed. Fast paced and a very exciting finish. I enjoyed the evangelist/corporate connections lurking throughout the novel. I also saw your write-up on the rally in D.C. Thanks for including Osaka!

I’m slowly moving forward with my blog Stealth Conflicts, and have just started a Stealth Conflicts Forum, which is opened up to those interested to write posts on the subject. I’m also planning a photo exhibition/talk on the situation in the DRC with a photojournalist friend.

Keep up the pressure and ‘be strong’!

All the best,


Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, February 6, 2009

Congo Crisis at Chappaqua Library

Multinational war is heightening the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the on-going struggle over the riches in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I will be discussing the latest bizarre developments in Congo at the Chappaqua Library, 195 South Greeley Street, Chappaqua, NY, at 7:30 PM, Wednesday, February 11.

I'll also be reading from Heart of Diamonds, my novel based on the Congo's endless struggle, and displaying some of the photos I took in Central Africa while researching the book.

Since my last appearance (a well-attended program at the Scarsdale Library in early December), two foreign armies have marched onto Congolese soil and the already-dire situation has become even more dangerous for the civilian population. The region's fate is balanced on ever-shifting alliances and a teetering democracy.

For a brief look at the situation in the Congo today, visit my Heart of Diamonds blog.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the