Friday, August 31, 2012
Few Words, Great Power
Great power can be found in few words. But still, I don't often seek out books written in free verse. The subject of Terry Farish's The Good Braider, however, intrigued me enough to give the book a chance. And powerful it was...
Living in southern Sudan carries more dangers than anyone could imagine. The pressure to convert to Islam can be carried out in ways that make people afraid to leave their homes, especially women. Viola can deal with the scarcity of medicines and food, but the idea that a man could violate her on a whim with no repercussions is both terrifying and stifling. But getting out of the Sudan is almost as difficult as living in it. Surrounded by land mines and drunken, violent, trigger-happy soldiers, and being beaten down and starved into submission is enough to keep most people there, but after Viola is raped, thereby losing her "bride wealth", she, her mother, and her brother are determined to finally escape the violence of their home.
But you can't outrun your culture. With a sponsoring uncle in the states, Viola and her mother make it to Maine, but their Sudanese heritage is right behind them. They might be surrounded by other Sudanese families, but they are enveloped by the American culture. And who would have thought the idea of her daughter succumbing to American values would be more terrifying to Viola's mother than the constant fear of rape and murder back in their home country? But it is, and so is the idea of completely abandoning everything you have known all your life.
This was a hauntingly beautiful story. I remember loving Inside Out and Back Again this spring, and this book reminded me of that book for a number of reasons, including the verse and the idea of being an immigrant from a harsh environment into the United States. But this book was much more mature and dark than that book. This story really got to the heart of the terror Viola felt from her life in the Sudan to the immigration into a new culture. It was scary, and Farish portrayed that well.
But I really loved the fact that the Sudan was not all violence and starvation. It was also their home, with the people they loved, the river, the land they adored. Viola truly missed her homeland even if she didn't miss living in fear every day of her life just for walking to get water for her home. I think the important lesson that these violent people who perpetuate these situations like what is happening in the Sudan are not a representation of the entire country, area, continent, etc. is vitally important. There are wonderful, kind people there who just want to live and celebrate their lives without the fear they have come to know. This is a great book for any high school student, especially one learning more about the African continent and cultures or who just needs a bit of a reality check. It is certainly an eye-opener that will make you appreciate the safety you feel in our own country.