The shockingly grim story of how the author became a slave at the end of the 20th century—mercifully, it has an ending to lift the spirit.
In 1994, at the age of 12, Nazer was plucked from her Nuba mountain village in the Sudan, thrown across the saddle of an Arab raider from the north while other marauders burned her village and killed the adults, then raped and delivered to the underground chamber of a slave trader. Things got only worse, especially in comparison to her memories of childhood in her village (except for the circumcision she underwent, told with a vividness that will make readers squirm). Nazer was sold to a dreadful family in Khartoum, where the terms of her servitude were quickly made clear. “No days off, no holiday, no wages,” the mistress of the house explained to a friend. “She’s always here. She belongs to me.” The mistress was also fond of beating Nazer for the slightest infraction: “You don’t know how to behave unless you’re whipped,” she would say, while slapping and kicking the girl. Remarkably, Nazer retained, between cringes, the wide-eyed curiosity of youth about things never seen: cars, mirrors, telephones. But terror was never far away for a girl in her situation, and Nazer heart-wrenchingly describes the ragged unpredictability of beatings, the crowding thoughts of home, the repulsive food, and the drear of daily toil. Sent to London to work for her mistress’s sister, the wife of a Sudanese diplomat, Nazer manages to contact a fellow Nuban who helps her to escape and gets her a lawyer. Incredibly, given the Sudanese government’s obvious collaboration in her enslavement, British authorities initially denied Nazer’s request for political asylum. The ensuing public outcry changed their minds, and she now lives in London.
Revelatory in the truest sense of the word: told with a child-pure candor that comes like a bucket of cold water in the lap.