Much ink has been worthily spent calling attention to the harrowing experiences of the Lost Boys of Sudan. So what of the girls?
Addressing a severe imbalance in the amount of attention paid to girls and women victimized in Sudan’s long civil war, the co-authors (one of whom has worked in East Africa) offer a fictional memoir. It wrests a fictional Didinga child from her settled life amid family and close neighbors and sends her on a long, heartbreaking trek to a huge refugee camp in Kenya. Relating her tale in present tense in a distinct, spirited voice (“That is one thing about me. I don’t get scared”), Poni goes on to describe her narrow escape from that camp and a forced marriage in the wake of a United Nations worker’s failure to honor a promise of help. She recounts her later stay in a small women’s shelter in Nairobi and, at last, the strenuous process of qualifying for a refugee program in far-off America. Though Poni learns to distance herself emotionally from the atrocities she witnesses, reminders of home force her to make agonizing choices along the way. Readers will come away with clear pictures of gender roles in Poni’s culture as well as the South Sudan conflict’s devastating physical and psychological effects. Two afterwords and a substantial bibliography (largely on the Lost Boys, perforce) will serve those who want to know more.
Moving and necessary. (timeline, glossary, maps) (Fiction. 12-14)