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A searing indictment of African tyranny mingled with bittersweet childhood memories.

London-based broadcaster Forna somberly chronicles her search for the truth about her father’s 1974 arrest and subsequent hanging in Sierra Leone.

Mohamed Forna was the first of his family, a regionally powerful clan, to attend university. He studied medicine at St. Andrew’s in Scotland and in the 1960s went back to Sierra Leone with his young white wife. Their daughter begins her story with a description of the first ten years of her own life, leading up to the day she last saw her father, accused of carrying out a bombing attack on a government minister. Forna recalls that her parents were initially happy together during the years he ran a small clinic and hospital he had founded in a rural area to help his people. But her father’s increasing involvement in politics led to estrangement, the couple separated, and her mother took the children briefly to Scotland. They returned when Mohammed was appointed Finance Minister, but the marriage continued to unravel, as did the country. Forna affectingly but dispassionately details Sierra Leone’s long, bloody spiral—still ongoing—into chaos. Her father was removed from office. Corrupt dictators ended democratic rule, destroyed the economy, and ruthlessly punished opponents like Mohammed Forna, who believed in democracy. His daughter also describes her encounters with racism as a child at English schools, her mother’s remarriage and disappearance from their lives, and her relations with Mohammed’s new wife, who had to protect his children as well as try to save his life. Returning to Sierra Leone in the early ’90s was not easy; Forna’s investigation into her father’s death revealed unrepentant complicity and lying that said much about the current state of politics in a country that has wantonly destroyed its future.

A searing indictment of African tyranny mingled with bittersweet childhood memories.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-87113-865-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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