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Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka

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For readers of Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Nothing to Envy , this is a breathtaking real-life story of four street children in contemporary Zambia whose lives are drawn together and forever altered by the mysterious murder of a fellow street child. Based on years of investigative reporting and unprecedented fieldwork, Walking the Bowl immerses readers in the da For readers of Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Nothing to Envy , this is a breathtaking real-life story of four street children in contemporary Zambia whose lives are drawn together and forever altered by the mysterious murder of a fellow street child. Based on years of investigative reporting and unprecedented fieldwork, Walking the Bowl immerses readers in the daily lives of four unforgettable characters: Lusabilo, a determined waste picker; Kapula, a burned-out brothel worker; Moonga, a former rock crusher turned beggar; and Timo, an ambitious gang leader. These children navigate the violent and poverty-stricken underworld of Lusaka, one of Africa’s fastest growing cities. When the dead body of a ten-year-old boy is discovered under a heap of garbage in Lusaka’s largest landfill, a murder investigation quickly heats up due to the influence of the victim’s mother and her far-reaching political connections. The children’s lives become more closely intertwined as each child engages in a desperate bid for survival against forces they could never have imagined. Gripping and fast-paced, the book exposes the perilous aspects of street life through the eyes of the children who survive, endure and dream there, and what emerges is an ultimately hopeful story about human kindness and how one small good deed, passed on to others, can make a difference in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.


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For readers of Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Nothing to Envy , this is a breathtaking real-life story of four street children in contemporary Zambia whose lives are drawn together and forever altered by the mysterious murder of a fellow street child. Based on years of investigative reporting and unprecedented fieldwork, Walking the Bowl immerses readers in the da For readers of Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Nothing to Envy , this is a breathtaking real-life story of four street children in contemporary Zambia whose lives are drawn together and forever altered by the mysterious murder of a fellow street child. Based on years of investigative reporting and unprecedented fieldwork, Walking the Bowl immerses readers in the daily lives of four unforgettable characters: Lusabilo, a determined waste picker; Kapula, a burned-out brothel worker; Moonga, a former rock crusher turned beggar; and Timo, an ambitious gang leader. These children navigate the violent and poverty-stricken underworld of Lusaka, one of Africa’s fastest growing cities. When the dead body of a ten-year-old boy is discovered under a heap of garbage in Lusaka’s largest landfill, a murder investigation quickly heats up due to the influence of the victim’s mother and her far-reaching political connections. The children’s lives become more closely intertwined as each child engages in a desperate bid for survival against forces they could never have imagined. Gripping and fast-paced, the book exposes the perilous aspects of street life through the eyes of the children who survive, endure and dream there, and what emerges is an ultimately hopeful story about human kindness and how one small good deed, passed on to others, can make a difference in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

30 review for Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    **Published 2/15/2022** "A single suffering child on the streets is a tragedy, a million is a statistic." The investigative team consisted of authors "Chama, a Black Zambian and former street child turned social worker...and Lockhart, a white American and trained anthropologist...". Rounding out the team were a graduate student and five former street children. Several years of careful planning were involved in developing an "unprecedented level of trust among...a wide cross section of children." T **Published 2/15/2022** "A single suffering child on the streets is a tragedy, a million is a statistic." The investigative team consisted of authors "Chama, a Black Zambian and former street child turned social worker...and Lockhart, a white American and trained anthropologist...". Rounding out the team were a graduate student and five former street children. Several years of careful planning were involved in developing an "unprecedented level of trust among...a wide cross section of children." The team was "a sustained presence...both night and day...in order to follow the story in real time...". Through the writing style of narrative non-fiction, the authors conveyed the voices and stories of the street children themselves. The tome's main focus was on the lives of four street children, in present day Zambia, and coalesced around the murder of ten year old Ho Ho Kid, whose body was discovered in a garbage dump. "They may have been the lowest of the low, but they were a community." Lusabilo, a "waste picker" was quasi-leader of the Chunga Dump scavenger kids. His gang ran after garbage trucks trying to be first to pick through the contents brought to the Chunga Dump. "Very little of what they did was gang-like...a loosely organized guild...bound together...[by] bare necessity...mostly from dawn to dusk...shift, sort and collect...". Lusabilo was the one who discovered Ho Ho Kid's half buried body. He had the feeling "that the Ho Ho Kid was about to become a bigger and more complicated problem...". After Timo's parents died, "the extended family- the famed safety net of Africa failed him...so like many kids...he was forced out onto the streets among Lusaka's mushrooming population of street children." He aspired to be a drug courier for one of the most powerful drug barons. Kapula, a brothel worker, was Timo's "wife". "Most girls had little choice but to accept the deal given-the obvious protection it afforded." Kapula felt she was always being "watched, ogled, inspected...Every girl was called a 'vegetable' because it perfectly conveyed how little they were worth." Mooga was "a solitary village boy...with large inquisitive eyes...a perfect mark for cheats, thieves and con artists..." Moonga had dreams of attending school. He had worked with a shabby group of underage rock crushers. In Lusaka now, waiting at the bus terminal for an uncle who never showed, he was befriended then robbed by a boy his own age. Moonga received no help from the security guards at the bus terminal. "There was no way he could survive alone out here; he needed others. Connections were everything." "Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka by Chris Lockhart and Daniel Mulilo Chama is a true life journey into the underbelly and into the tunnels occupied by the street children of Lusaka. Author Chama, a social worker, identified as "Outreacher", tries within the scope of his interactions with the children, to offer charity and kindness through his often repeated story of "paying it forward"... small acts of kindness, passed on to others. This excellent, informative, heart-wrenching read is highly recommended. Thank you Harlequin Trade Publishing/Hanover Square Press and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Often times research reports of an anthropological nature are filled with statistics and often are very dry readings of the subject. When you engulf yourself in this novel, you can throw that thought out the window. This is the most important eye opening and readable book that I have ever read about the plight of street children, which can be extrapolated to other street children in the world. The hand that they were dealt is harrowing where survival by any means possible is the ultimate game. D Often times research reports of an anthropological nature are filled with statistics and often are very dry readings of the subject. When you engulf yourself in this novel, you can throw that thought out the window. This is the most important eye opening and readable book that I have ever read about the plight of street children, which can be extrapolated to other street children in the world. The hand that they were dealt is harrowing where survival by any means possible is the ultimate game. Drug use, police corruption and brutality, murder, rape, and physical and mental abuse are a part of everyday life. During a five year study of kids on the street in Zambia, this team have given us a gift with a narrative nonfiction study immersing the reader into these kids' daily lives. It is extraordinary, but not for the faint of heart. The ugliness and the pain that these children suffer is on full display. The story begins with the discovery of a dead 10 year old found in the dumps. Many peoples' livelihood depend on trash picking so that they can resell the items( like plastic) to enable them a pittance to live on. The panicky child, Lusabilo, who discovered the disfigured child is afraid that the police will predetermine that he is responsible. As Lusabilo tries to uncover the truth other children are brought into the narrative whose lives intersect with Lusabillo and the dead child. Their vividly woven and immersive stories just squeeze your heart while also depicting the small amounts of humanity, concern and goodness that bring a measure of faith and hope to their lives.Learning the concept of paying it forward was integral to dwelling on their aspirations for their lives. I cannot exclaim enough about this book. The characters were achingly alive and lit up memories for me. While in Bangladesh I met 3 street children ages 7-12 who were living under a tiny plastic blue tarp on the street near our hotel. I spent many hours talking with them as the eldest girl had picked up English from tourists. Much of what we discussed were issues quite similar to the narrative in the book. India, Thailand and other third world countries I have been fortunate to visit have the same deeply transporting stories. I couldn't but drink deeply from this book while I hurt, hurt, hurt. Thank you to Net Galley for allowing me to write an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    An exceptionally written piece of narrative nonfiction that takes readers into the heart and soul of what life is like for the street kids of Lusaka and elsewhere. A meaningful, disheartening, and thought-provoking read that will stick with readers long after finishing. A highly recommended book. Thank you Netgalley, publishers, and authors for this ARC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Often times research reports of an anthropological nature are filled with statistics and often are very dry readings of the subject. When you engulf yourself in this book, you can throw that thought out the window. This is the most important eye opening and readable book that I have ever read about the plight of street children, which can be extrapolated to other street children in the world. The hand that they were dealt is harrowing where survival by any means possible is the ultimate game. Dr Often times research reports of an anthropological nature are filled with statistics and often are very dry readings of the subject. When you engulf yourself in this book, you can throw that thought out the window. This is the most important eye opening and readable book that I have ever read about the plight of street children, which can be extrapolated to other street children in the world. The hand that they were dealt is harrowing where survival by any means possible is the ultimate game. Drug use, police corruption and brutality, murder, rape, and physical and mental abuse are a part of everyday life. During a five year study of kids on the street in Zambia, this team have given us a gift with a narrative nonfiction study immersing the reader into these kids' daily lives. It is extraordinary, but not for the faint of heart. The ugliness and the pain that these children suffer is on full display. The story begins with the discovery of a dead 10 year old found in the dumps. Many peoples' livelihood depend on trash picking so that they can resell the items( like plastic) to enable them a pittance to live on. The panicky child, Lusabilo, who discovered the disfigured child is afraid that the police will predetermine that he is responsible. As Lusabilo tries to uncover the truth other children are brought into the narrative whose lives intersect with Lusabillo and the dead child. Their vividly woven and immersive stories just squeeze your heart while also depicting the small amounts of humanity, concern and goodness that bring a measure of faith and hope to their lives.Learning the concept of paying it forward was integral to dwelling on their aspirations for their lives. I cannot exclaim enough about this book. The characters were achingly alive and lit up memories for me. While in Bangladesh I met 3 street children ages 7-12 who were living under a tiny plastic blue tarp on the street near our hotel. I spent many hours talking with them as the eldest girl had picked up English from tourists. Much of what we discussed were issues quite similar to the narrative in the book. India, Thailand and other third world countries I have been fortunate to visit have the same deeply transporting stories. I couldn't but drink deeply from this book while I hurt, hurt, hurt.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley). Written in vivid and gripping detail that often shocks and horrifies, and interspersed with moments of compassion that come at incredibly key moments for core characters, Walking the Bowl reads like a finely crafted contemporary novel. So considering that this book is in fact a work of narrative nonfiction….well, it still almost leaves me at a loss for words when I try to wrap my mind around it. The story that Daniel (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley). Written in vivid and gripping detail that often shocks and horrifies, and interspersed with moments of compassion that come at incredibly key moments for core characters, Walking the Bowl reads like a finely crafted contemporary novel. So considering that this book is in fact a work of narrative nonfiction….well, it still almost leaves me at a loss for words when I try to wrap my mind around it. The story that Daniel Mulilo Chama and Chris Lockheart have to share with readers as a result of several years of fieldwork performed in sprawling Lusaka is nothing short of incredible. I genuinely don’t think I could possibly ask for a work that could more effectively reveal a glimpse at how the street children of Lusaka, and millions of street children like them worldwide, lead lives so almost stunningly packed with grinding poverty, widespread drug use, and rampant physical and sexual violence, amongst other hazards. Nor could I ask for a work that could more successfully show just how far a precious act of kindness can go in changing the lives of any one of these often nameless millions living on the margins of the margins. Simply put, it's simultaneously one of the most gripping and eye-opening books that I have had the good opportunity to read this year, and will be quick to recommend it whenever the chance arises.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen R.

    I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this book, and I was blown away. The story of these children in Zambia was heartbreaking, but the writing really brought it to life. An eye opener into the lives of street children, and hard to stop thinking about when finished.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    This book is very difficult to read; The street children of Lusaka described in the story lead harrowing lives filled with hunger, violence, drug use, disease and sexual assault (all the trigger warnings you can think of apply). However, I appreciated that the authors didn’t portray these children exclusively as victims to be pitied, but also as people who derive meaning, agency and value in the communities that they form. The authors – including an anthropologist and a social worker who is a fo This book is very difficult to read; The street children of Lusaka described in the story lead harrowing lives filled with hunger, violence, drug use, disease and sexual assault (all the trigger warnings you can think of apply). However, I appreciated that the authors didn’t portray these children exclusively as victims to be pitied, but also as people who derive meaning, agency and value in the communities that they form. The authors – including an anthropologist and a social worker who is a former street child– sought to portray the full lives of these children, lives that can’t be fully appreciated in statistics on “street children“. The story doesn’t shy away from describing the brutality of life on the streets, but it also emphasizes the power of kindness to lift people out of their seemingly hopeless situations. In the story, a philosophy of paying it forward, and an initial good deed end up playing out in surprising, nearly miraculous ways among the various characters. In fact, if this were a fiction novel I might find it slightly clichéd. But it’s a true story, filled with real people who are living proof that kindnesses, small and large, can change lives. The hopeful ending sits with the tension that so many children continue to live and die in these conditions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    I should have loved this book. Who wouldn’t, with its terribly sad and real story of Zambian street children? (I may complain about America from time to time, but the truth is I have nothing to complain about.) “Walking the bowl” is basically an African form of “pay it forward.” The book was well written but I honestly think part of the reason I didn’t love it was the narrator. The African accent was hard for me to understand and I kept losing track of what was going on. Anyway, this book covers I should have loved this book. Who wouldn’t, with its terribly sad and real story of Zambian street children? (I may complain about America from time to time, but the truth is I have nothing to complain about.) “Walking the bowl” is basically an African form of “pay it forward.” The book was well written but I honestly think part of the reason I didn’t love it was the narrator. The African accent was hard for me to understand and I kept losing track of what was going on. Anyway, this book covers crime, theft, poverty, sexual abuse, prostitution, drugs, glue sniffing, and other topics like those. It’s a little depressing and offers only a tiny bit of hope at the end, for a few people.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Wall Warner

    A remarkable story respectfully told. Heartbreaking and heartwarming- truly unforgettable.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Terzah

    This is the best book I've read in a long time. I'll write more about it later, but for now, I recommend it to everyone. It's stunning. This is the best book I've read in a long time. I'll write more about it later, but for now, I recommend it to everyone. It's stunning.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    Two writers who have personal experience with the streets of Lusaka and their desperate denizens combine forces to create an unforgettable tale of poverty, violence, cruelty and hope. Plunging into the action from the outset, we meet a strong-minded but desperately poor boy, Lusabilo, as he stares at the mutilated corpse of another youth protruding from a pile of stinking garbage. The garbage dumps of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital and largest city, are Lusabilo’s domain, where, like other scavengers o Two writers who have personal experience with the streets of Lusaka and their desperate denizens combine forces to create an unforgettable tale of poverty, violence, cruelty and hope. Plunging into the action from the outset, we meet a strong-minded but desperately poor boy, Lusabilo, as he stares at the mutilated corpse of another youth protruding from a pile of stinking garbage. The garbage dumps of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital and largest city, are Lusabilo’s domain, where, like other scavengers of all ages, he struggles for scraps of food and anything remotely saleable --- day after exhausting day. An official search for the killer will entwine Lusabilo and others in a skein of complications that include threats of police torture, gang battles and at least one other killing. We meet Timo, a would-be drug dealer getting his start in that career from the largesse of a big-time racketeer; Kapula, a young girl forced into prostitution and initially Timo’s private “property”; Moonga, whose brief harsh experience in the country’s metal mines brought him in desperation to the trash heaps of Lusaka’s back streets; and the book’s narrators and researchers --- Daniel Mulilo Chama, known as the “Outreacher” for his role as a social worker, and Chris Lockhart, identified as “the white man” in this distressing, real-life drama. But beyond the ugly landfill’s stench, the constant threat of sickness, rape and death, and the corruption found in the most unexpected places, there is a redemptive force. Known colloquially as “walking the bowl,” it is the ability of people (even young ones) trapped in horrific, harrowing scenarios to recognize charity and kindness when it is offered, and “pay ahead” to others. The story behind the book is as intriguing as the narrative itself. Chama, a former Lusaka street child, and Lockhart, an author, anthropologist and developmental research consultant, met at a conference and shared their individual experiences. Together they resolved to compose a story that not only would convey accurately and empathetically the conditions of street children in Lusaka, but would give a broader picture to the outside world of the abiding questions surrounding sub-Saharan Africa’s inequalities at a time when equality elsewhere was the great rallying cry. As they delved into these issues over several years of working directly with street children, the actual murder scenario arose, resulting in an overarching structure. Significantly, much of the vivid depiction of events arose from audio recordings, giving their diligence even greater gravity. WALKING THE BOWL should be read and studied by anyone genuinely dedicated to real reform and wishing to be educated about the actual conditions of the world’s abandoned and often forgotten children. Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Even though we're only two months into this year, I know this will make my top 5 books read in 2022. Amazing. This is not fiction, even though it reads like fiction. It deals with some terrible circumstances and situations and real people. When I review a book like this, I feel a need to be distinct in my discussion about separating the writing from the story, the craft from the content. Starting with the craft, the writing: this is what makes this book especially memorable. This is not a memoir s Even though we're only two months into this year, I know this will make my top 5 books read in 2022. Amazing. This is not fiction, even though it reads like fiction. It deals with some terrible circumstances and situations and real people. When I review a book like this, I feel a need to be distinct in my discussion about separating the writing from the story, the craft from the content. Starting with the craft, the writing: this is what makes this book especially memorable. This is not a memoir style, nonfiction dressed as fiction. This is hard core, anthropology and social science field work contextualized and presented in a narrative that stays as true to the actual events and conversations as possible. The fact that this real-life narrative, with multiple points of view and many characters, reads like a fictional murder mystery is a testament to the care the authors took in writing something to reach a wide audience outside of academia. Even if you never read the introduction and the "about this book" at the end, and convince yourself this is not real, you'll get quick a bit out of the story because it's well written as a story. It takes a place and culture that is so foreign to me, a middle-class, white suburban North American, and makes it real. It doesn't glamourize it or hide its reality or even judge the bad guys (except, perhaps, implicitly, NGOs and other do-gooder Western organizations) but it makes them human. It's probably been twenty years since I read A Fine Balance, but Walking the Bowl reminds me of that book, but now in Zambia. Perhaps you're wondering about how I split the writing from the story, if in that previous paragraph I talk so much about the humanity of the story and the characters. Isn't that the story, not the writing? No, in my mind, it's the craft of writing to create that. I need to separate that from the actual content, the experiences of the people involved, because to say "this book is amazing" when it deals with abuse, extreme poverty, drugs and addiction, violence and murder, corruption and other horrible aspects of society is very awkward for me. Some people may be able to let the reality of the book slide off because it's in a book, and when it's fiction and the people aren't actual humans (even if they stand in for someone real), is one thing. I can't say I loved this book without feeling terrible about loving something that was created out of someone else's suffering. I don't love the suffering. It's horrible that the lifestyle in this book is reality for many many people (not just those in Zambia). I need to be clear that the content of this book disturbs me, as it should. And yet this book is full of the resilience of humanity, of hope, of the importance of "walking the bowl" and doing even little things for others. Everyone has dreams. Everyone is just doing what they can to survive and ease their suffering. Everyone should read this book. (It would make a great book club kit, a high school study in English, World Culture, Anthropology, Social Work, etc)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mike Steinharter

    This is a beautiful book. It’s about the street children of Lusaka, Zambia. Tragic but moving. Walking the bowl is paying it forward.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jerre Mcquinn

    Paying forward A true and inspirational story about kids in the worst of circumstances in Lusaka, Zambia. The story is well-researched and well-told and illustrates the connectedness of the street kids and the adults they encounter in the massive city of over 2 million people. I love a story of surviving and overcoming adversity. Every such case is a win.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Kotowski

    Devastatingly beautiful.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    So good. So smart. So hard to put down.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Juli

    This was not an easy read for me by any means. Having lived in Egypt for a few years, I have seen unimaginable poverty and little kids begging on the streets, scenes I will never forget. But even more so because I have an 8-year-old little boy, and I couldn't stop myself from imagining him in the gut-wrenching situations some of the same aged children living on the streets of Lusaka had to endure. It is heartbreaking and it hurts. An unforgettable book. This was not an easy read for me by any means. Having lived in Egypt for a few years, I have seen unimaginable poverty and little kids begging on the streets, scenes I will never forget. But even more so because I have an 8-year-old little boy, and I couldn't stop myself from imagining him in the gut-wrenching situations some of the same aged children living on the streets of Lusaka had to endure. It is heartbreaking and it hurts. An unforgettable book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Zampetti

    WALKING THE BOWL combines a suspenseful narrative with in-depth reporting and research of many years to create a vivid, brutal, and cruelly beautiful portrait of the life of Lusaka's street children and one of their deaths. The authors do an excellent job of respecting their subject's lives and engendering sympathy in the reader - even for those children who commit crimes and violence in order to survive. A definite recommendation for those who enjoyed BEYOND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS. (NOTE: I recei WALKING THE BOWL combines a suspenseful narrative with in-depth reporting and research of many years to create a vivid, brutal, and cruelly beautiful portrait of the life of Lusaka's street children and one of their deaths. The authors do an excellent job of respecting their subject's lives and engendering sympathy in the reader - even for those children who commit crimes and violence in order to survive. A definite recommendation for those who enjoyed BEYOND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS. (NOTE: I received a copy of this title through NetGalley.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kim Mihaleas

    What a story! There is as much beauty in this book as there is horror. What these street kids have to do to survive is so awful that it's hard to believe. I could not wrap my head around the fact that things could be this bad anywhere. But there is good, too, in small things that add up. I also found it Really well-written. What a story! There is as much beauty in this book as there is horror. What these street kids have to do to survive is so awful that it's hard to believe. I could not wrap my head around the fact that things could be this bad anywhere. But there is good, too, in small things that add up. I also found it Really well-written.

  20. 5 out of 5

    AL

    - beautiful, but hard to read - makes you check your privilege and things you take for granted - made me think about how we measure intelligence and strength, many of these kids haven’t had a day of school but they understand more about the world than a lot of educated people

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Buchanan

    Interesting in how the authors take an anthropology study I.e. immersion in the lives of street children in Lusaka and find an incident (murder of a street child) and tell the story (true) as it evolves in the life of other street children. Very compelling.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Hartnett

    Amazing story, amazingly told.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Critter

    This is a great book that provides a look into the lives of street children in Lusaka. It is a narrative nonfiction, so its formatting is a bit different from other works of nonfiction. The story it tells is one that is both heartbreaking and provides some hope. This book has come from years of fieldwork that was assembled in this book in a great fashion to tell the story of the street children. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. I would like to thank Hanover Sq This is a great book that provides a look into the lives of street children in Lusaka. It is a narrative nonfiction, so its formatting is a bit different from other works of nonfiction. The story it tells is one that is both heartbreaking and provides some hope. This book has come from years of fieldwork that was assembled in this book in a great fashion to tell the story of the street children. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. I would like to thank Hanover Sqaure Press for providing me with an ARC.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Benschoter

    Walking the Bowl is a nonfiction book about Zambian street children told in the style of a murder mystery. The writers spent years with a team of researchers "embedded" with the children who live on the streets of Lusaka. Their goal was to describe the situations these children suffer and survive in a way that does not fall on stereotypes, that goes deeper into their points of view, their understandings and worldviews. During their research a body was found in the city dump, not unusual in itsel Walking the Bowl is a nonfiction book about Zambian street children told in the style of a murder mystery. The writers spent years with a team of researchers "embedded" with the children who live on the streets of Lusaka. Their goal was to describe the situations these children suffer and survive in a way that does not fall on stereotypes, that goes deeper into their points of view, their understandings and worldviews. During their research a body was found in the city dump, not unusual in itself, but how the children involved and the police responded drew them to look more closely. What they found was this story that they decided to tell from the views of a handful of children moving around the murder. It's really a brilliant move. I can only imagine how a book of reportage on Lusaka's street children would be too much to take. Their lives are brutal, their circumstances dire, harsh, terrible. Yet, even as they suffer addiction and violence, they find ways to help each other. Ultimately, their story ends up being a hopeful one. I was left troubled and uplifted, a powerful story, indeed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer S

    Walking the Bowl is the Zambian equivalent of "paying it forward." This book follows the stories of several children living on the streets of Lusaka after they lose their family support systems. There are gangs, prostitution, glue-sniffing, begging, drug running, violence, scavenging for edible scraps, and other details of the horrible life necessary for survival. The stories are linked through the body of a boy found at the dump and the efforts to find how he was killed. The authors of the book Walking the Bowl is the Zambian equivalent of "paying it forward." This book follows the stories of several children living on the streets of Lusaka after they lose their family support systems. There are gangs, prostitution, glue-sniffing, begging, drug running, violence, scavenging for edible scraps, and other details of the horrible life necessary for survival. The stories are linked through the body of a boy found at the dump and the efforts to find how he was killed. The authors of the book include a former street kid turned social worker (The Outreacher) and a white (unnamed in the novel) anthropologist who conducted a multi-year field study of these street communities and eventually found a linkage to help portray the story of what this life entails. Although this is terribly grim, there are some acts of kindness (walking the bowl) that provide hope for the future for some of the children. Impressive research and field work to provide such a detailed account (make sure to read the afterword). 3.5 stars but I just couldn't round it up because it is so overwhelmingly miserable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Difficult to read but important. I have travelled to Zambia and seen unbelievable poverty there but it does not compare to the abject misery experienced by these street children in the city of Lusaka. One of the authors is a social worker or "outreacher," a former street child who now tries to help others. He tells the story of a starving person who is given a bowl of food by a compassionate person. When he says he has no way to repay her kindness, she tells him to "walk the bowl" to another per Difficult to read but important. I have travelled to Zambia and seen unbelievable poverty there but it does not compare to the abject misery experienced by these street children in the city of Lusaka. One of the authors is a social worker or "outreacher," a former street child who now tries to help others. He tells the story of a starving person who is given a bowl of food by a compassionate person. When he says he has no way to repay her kindness, she tells him to "walk the bowl" to another person in need - i.e. pay it forward. While the outreacher sometimes doubts that his efforts actually benefit anyone, we do see multiple people "walking the bowl" throughout the book. But - this is anything but a "feel good" story. It describes the lives of four street children: an aspiring drug kingpin, a child prostitute, a garbage picker and an aspiring student who barely survives by begging. Their lives intersect when a murdered, eyeless child is found in the garbage dump, called the HoHo Boy ("ho" referring to the holes where his eyes should be). The adults depicted are almost without exception cruel, negligent, corrupt or substance addicted. Be sure and read the authors' notes at the end, where they discuss the process for arriving at the content of this book - hours and hours of recorded interviews with most events witnessed by one or both of the authors.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ann Campbell

    This book is amazing. It's an ethnography of street children in Lusaka, Zambia but it's recounted as a story-- novel style-- following several children who become involved in the investigation of a murder. It's really well written and impressively non preachy. It simply tells about the lives of its subjects from their point of view, with the murder as an intersection between all the stories. The afterward on how it was researched and written makes it clear how many years of research and collabor This book is amazing. It's an ethnography of street children in Lusaka, Zambia but it's recounted as a story-- novel style-- following several children who become involved in the investigation of a murder. It's really well written and impressively non preachy. It simply tells about the lives of its subjects from their point of view, with the murder as an intersection between all the stories. The afterward on how it was researched and written makes it clear how many years of research and collaboration went into gathering the data and writing the book. The authors deliberately avoid "admin-speak" and graphs, charts etc. They clearly tell a story, and in doing so they open up a world. Wow. This book is completely out of my wheelhouse and I read it based on the review. It will stay with me for a very long time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    > Of those incidents that are described in this book beginning with the discovery of Ho Kid's body, approximately 85% were directly observed by a team member. Additionally, approximately 75% of quotes were captured with an audio recorder. > Making street kids torture one of their own was another tactic favored by the police. It instilled the maximum amount of fear in their authority while ensuring that their own hands remained clean. It also crushed the spirits of those who were forced to take p > Of those incidents that are described in this book beginning with the discovery of Ho Kid's body, approximately 85% were directly observed by a team member. Additionally, approximately 75% of quotes were captured with an audio recorder. > Making street kids torture one of their own was another tactic favored by the police. It instilled the maximum amount of fear in their authority while ensuring that their own hands remained clean. It also crushed the spirits of those who were forced to take part. And last, but not least, it cultivated a low-grade civil war of sorts among street children since Bullet—or even Cheelo himself if he survived—would almost certainly seek revenge. It was just another means of fragmenting a problematic population.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    I'm in awe of this book. It's a marvelous piece of reporting, but the anthropological methodology included in "About This Book" at the end blew me away. I won't spoil it because I want you to be bowled over by the amount of work and collaboration that went into this project, but I hope the five stars make you more excited to read. I was definitely conflicted by the piece: writing about children in any context feels a bit icky to me, as though we are sensationalizing extreme poverty and pain, but I'm in awe of this book. It's a marvelous piece of reporting, but the anthropological methodology included in "About This Book" at the end blew me away. I won't spoil it because I want you to be bowled over by the amount of work and collaboration that went into this project, but I hope the five stars make you more excited to read. I was definitely conflicted by the piece: writing about children in any context feels a bit icky to me, as though we are sensationalizing extreme poverty and pain, but I think this book did a good job humanizing these kids making decisions and having dreams without infantilizing or adultifying them. HIGHLY recommend. Someone please read this book so that I have someone to talk about it with.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Stanton

    This book should be taught in schools, colleges and read by any middle or working class person who feels their lives are hard. The story here is relentlessly heartbreaking about this population of extremely impoverished abandoned or neglected children who suffer the worst of crimes against them, in the most squalid living conditions. It's a masterful work of research and immersion journalism in this strata of forgotten people, children that is. There is hope near the end, but for the majority, t This book should be taught in schools, colleges and read by any middle or working class person who feels their lives are hard. The story here is relentlessly heartbreaking about this population of extremely impoverished abandoned or neglected children who suffer the worst of crimes against them, in the most squalid living conditions. It's a masterful work of research and immersion journalism in this strata of forgotten people, children that is. There is hope near the end, but for the majority, the dire living conditions will continue. The writing is solid, but I wish the writers had given far more sensory detail. It is odd not to be able to viscerally envision (see, smell, hear) the garbage dumps, the brothel, the bus station, nor to have clear portraiture of the four people whose stories are intertwined in this book, including the clothes they wear, their hair and faces and expressions and gestures and the tenor of their voices. As I reader, while I was deeply engaged with the story, but the lack of concrete setting and portraiture details forfeited some depth, creating a connection to these children that would lingered and haunted me for a long time after finishing the book.

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