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Reviewed by Gail Sosinsky Wickman for Readers' Favorite
Shanil Samarakoon's book Whisperings is a collection of poems recounting events in his life in Africa and Sri Lanka. The poems deal both with personal feelings and social justice issues. All proceeds from the book are being donated to Empower, Inc., an Australian-registered social justice organization that Samarakoon was inspired to form after the devastating tsunami of 2004.
The poems in Whisperings touch on some of the difficult personal politics of providing aid in Africa. In "The Naïve Aid Worker," Samarakoon touches on the less noble aspects of each party -- the aid worker acting out of guilt and the refugee just looking for someone to blame -- but ends the poem with a call to mutual aid and self responsibility. In "The Spill," he describes a death by violence, but uses it as an opportunity for self-reflection: "I dream of an end to our slavery to self, /When my reflection doesn't disgust me so. /Then I am beautiful though it matters not. /Then I am strong, for good reason." "Lament" contains a perceptive comment on the problem of "liberators": "Freedom was won at the end of a gun, /Now the gun oversees the freedom we won."
The poems will appeal to people who like rhymed stanzas and concept over image. I would have liked to see more specific details that recreated the places Samarakoon has lived, but perhaps those will be the focus of future poems. Shanil Samarakoon's Whisperings is a worthwhile look at a part of the world that is too often ignored.