An activist and author explores the plight of African albinos in this story of a young Tanzanian.
Translated from the original Italian, this “work of fiction based on true events” sees the African albino experience through the eyes of a Tanzanian girl named Adimu. Upon first seeing her shockingly white skin, Adimu’s father simply declares: “It has to die.” The prejudice against these Zeru Zerus—or phantoms or nobodies, as they are sometimes called—is so strong that all the other women at the birth recoil, calling the baby a dark omen and demanding that she be abandoned far from the village. But after a shocking test of fate, the infant’s loving grandmother Nkamba is allowed to raise her. Threats lurk constantly in the shadows against the ostracized Adimu and her grandmother; a failed kidnapping attempt leads to the intervention of Charles and Sarah Fielding, a wealthy white couple living on an island. Sarah is smitten with the child and wants to raise her as her own, but like many men in the story, Charles sees the baby as an opportunity. Believed to hold dark magic, the body of an older Zeru Zeru is a commodity that can be sold on the black market for great sums of money—even enough to save Charles’ failing mining company. Gentili’s (I, Maria Bellofiore, 2009) primary goal as the founder of Help African Albinos is to raise awareness for the very real issues of racism and human trafficking affecting people like Adimu, but he has also crafted a compelling novel. The author carefully constructs the superstitious and hostile world of the village but also populates it with several believable and complex inhabitants. He strives to show the difficulty these characters have reconciling their beliefs and motivations with Adimu’s existence as a real person. The multiple dangers that befall the sweet main character provide a surprising amount of suspense and shock while the inner turmoil of Nkamba and Charles offers deep, emotionally charged storylines.
Both an engrossing tale and an effective call to action about a rarely discussed minority.