In 2015, Dionne Searcey was covering the economy for The New York Times, living in Brooklyn with her husband and three young children. Saddled with the demands of a dual-career household and motherhood in an urban setting, her life was in a rut. She decided to pursue a job as the paper’s West Africa bureau chief, an amazing but daunting opportunity to cover a swath of territory encompassing two dozen countries and 500 million people. Landing with her family in Dakar, Senegal, she quickly found their lives turned upside down as they struggled to figure out their place in this new region, along with a new family dynamic where she was the main breadwinner flying off to work while her husband stayed behind to manage the home front.
In Pursuit of Disobedient Women follows Searcey’s sometimes harrowing, sometimes rollicking experiences of her work in the field, the most powerful of which, for her, center on the extraordinary lives and struggles of the women she encounters. As she tries to get an American audience subsumed by the age of Trump and inspired by a feminist revival to pay attention, she is gone from her family for sometimes weeks at a time, covering stories like Boko Haram-conscripted teen-girl suicide bombers or young women in small villages shaking up social norms by getting out of bad marriages. Ultimately, Searcey returns home to reconcile with skinned knees and school plays that happen without her and a begrudging husband thrown into the role of primary parent.
Life, for Searcey, as with most of us, is a balancing act. She weaves a tapestry of women living at the crossroads of old-fashioned patriarchy and an increasingly globalized and connected world. The result is a deeply personal and highly compelling look into a modern-day marriage and a world most of us have barely considered. Readers will find Searcey’s struggles, both with her family and those of the women she meets along the way, familiar and relatable in this smart and moving memoir.