Thursday, February 2, 2012

Our Secret, Siri Aang

African Reading Challenge
I am taking a part in the African reading challenge and have just finished my first book this year by an African writer or about Africa.

The author, Cristina Kessler, is an American who has spent 19 years in Africa. Our Secret is a teen novel about a young Maasai girl called Namelok. She is on the edge of becoming 'A Woman' and all that entails including female circumcision, marriage to a man twice her age, restricted movements etc. It is also the story of 'change' touching on western education, poaching of African wildlife, the impact of tourism and 'reservations' on the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Maasai.

Namelok 'can't breathe' in her family encampment and regularly wanders far collecting firewood when, one day, she comes across a rhino giving birth. She forms a bond with the rhino family, swearing to protect them but something dreadful happens and, bent on revenge, she tracks a limping man over the dangerous savannah.

The tale follows a lovely path and Namelok does become a woman but following a far different route than that prescribed to her. It is beautifully written and far more subtle and complex than I would have expected from a young adult book. Mind you; I don't read much Teen fiction and maybe I should.

4 stars and recommended.

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