Review Blog

May 04 2009

Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland

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Allen and Unwin, 2009.
(Ages 15+ ) Biography. Civil war in Sierra Leone means that Mariatu and her family have no idea of where to run when the rebels arrive. Burning villages, raping, murdering and mutilating those they come across, the drug addled, and leaderless anarchistic rebels cut off the girl's hands in an effort to stop her voting for the president. What is a president? She asks, underlining her innocence and naivety at what is going on around her.
This amazing true story will fill readers with dread as they read of what is happening in countries where guerilla bandits attempt to take control, or at the very least, destabilise their country. It is a story filled with horror as harrowing story after harrowing story is related by this young girl. Eventually getting to a hospital, she finds that she is pregnant, not to one of the rebels, but raped by her husband to be.
Living in a refugee camp where she and her friends must beg to survive, Mariatu is heartened by news that people from rich countries have read of her plight and sent her money to survive. She revels in the fact that she is being noticed, and is eventually taken to Canada where her benefactors find a place for her to live and be educated. She decides that her education will be the savior for herself and her country and now divides her time between Canada and Sierra Leone helping others in her situation.
A distressing story from start to finish, the core at its heart is Mariatu's spirit. She rarely allows herself to be self pitying, instead looking for ways to ensure her survival. She takes every opportunity available to her, noting that those who have come from a life like hers are eagerly taking up the education offered to them. It is a salutatory read, one which will enhance our students' view of themselves in this world, making them much more aware of the courage that some display to survive. Fran Knight

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