Books & Literature

Book Review: Rising Heart, by Aminata Conteh-Biger, with Juliet Rieden

NON-FICTION: One woman’s astonishing journey from unimaginable trauma to becoming a power for good.

A biography of true essence that is sure to capture your heart

TW: This book includes themes such as sexually based violence, war, and suicide. 

Rising Heart is aptly labelled in present tense as author Aminata Conteh-Biger is still blossoming. Her journey to greatness is set to continue as her generous heart will continue to help her Sierra Leonean sisters, with part of this book’s royalties going directly to the Aminata Maternal Foundation. Where did she start?

Rising Heart chronicles Aminata Conteh-Biger’s life from birth to adulthood. It starts with a happy childhood, where she lives with her siblings and is raised by her father. Although in many ways her father is a traditional Sierra Leonean man, in other ways he is not, most notably in his firm belief in educating his daughters.

It is this grounding and her inner spirit of hope and optimism that gives her the fortitude to survive the next part of her life. Although she discusses much of the rumblings of the civil war occurring in Sierra Leone in the latter part of her childhood, it is heartbreaking when, at the age of 18, she is kidnapped by the rebels.

If you are unfamiliar with the rebels’ reputation in Sierra leone, they were notorious for hacking off limbs and using human bodies as shields. They were also well known for raping and kidnapping thousands of women and girls, in particular seeking out innocent virgins.

Much of the innocence of the author at the time of her capture is reflected in the way this book is written. Sentences are short and to the point. She uses simple vocabulary. You can really feel and hear her tell her story; much of the formation of the text is like that of a diary entry or conversation piece. She holds nothing back in the way she feels, sees or does.

If you know nothing about what it is like to walk in the footsteps of a refugee, Rising Heart has a lot to teach. Aminata Conteh-Biger is such an endearing person to listen to and it is impossible to fathom how she maintained such undying resilience and courage in her life’s journey.

Nevertheless, she is ever so humble, as throughout the book she reflects on cultural norms and emphasises that her story is one of many. It is best not to start this book if you have anything planned as it is impossible to put down.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Distributed by: Macmillan Australia
Released: August 2020
RRP: $34.99

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