Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Bite of the Mango

This book, a memoir by Mariatu Kamara with an assist by the Canadian journalist, Susan McClelland, was one featured in The End of Your Life Book Club.  It tells the story of Kamara's childhood in Sierra Leone which was rudely interrupted by a rape by a local man then an attack by rebels who cut off her hands so she could not vote for the President (ironically, at the time she did not even know what a president was).  She somehow escaped alive and walked her way to a clinic days away on foot and then was transported to a hospital in the capital Freetown where she was operated on then nursed to health by extended family and a friend she made on the transport bus to the hospital - even though those people had nothing either.  She lived with the family (including 3 cousins who'd also had there hands cut off) in a refugee camp for amputees and their families surviving on the pittance she and her cousins earned by begging in town.  Her baby was born healthy but died of malnutrition at 10 months leading to her depression and guilt as she felt the baby was taken from her as she did not love him enough. She gets her spirit back when she joins a theatre troupe in the refugee camp and performs in plays about local issues (including the civil war and HIV/AIDS which thankfully she escaped).  Her story is reported on by a Canadian journalist causing a Toronto family to take interest in her and eventually bring her to Toronto where she joins another extended family from Sierra Leone, learns English and goes to high school.  She gets the idea of writing a book from McClelland who introduces her to Ishmael Beah, the former child soldier from Sierra Leone whose memoir became a best seller.  After visiting her country again with UNICEF representatives, and seeing the horrifying conditions her family still lives in, she decided the best way to help them is to make money and raise awareness by telling her story.  She even meets with the President - now that she knows what a President is.  An interesting story by a remarkably strong young girl.

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