Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili

I bought a copy of this book after the author contacted me.  Yes, he offered me a review copy, but I preferred to buy my own.  Buying this book helps African Albinos and, while it wasn’t a cause I’d given much thought to previously, it is one I’m happy to support.

Here’s a link to the website: Help African Albinos

And here’s my review of a thought-provoking novel:

Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili

‘The birth of a white shadow is a bad sign.’

In a small community in Africa, a girl is born. She is the first child of Juma and Sefu, but they are horrified by her appearance.  She is different, an albino, in a superstitious community where such children would traditionally be abandoned.  Sefu’s mother, Nkamba, is given permission to care for the little girl, whom she names Adimu.

Adimu is shunned by most within the village: she is viewed as a ‘thing’ rather than as a person.  Her body parts are considered valuable, and Adimu is at risk from are bounty hunters.  Adimu’s path crosses that of a wealthy white couple: Charles and Sarah Fielding.  Adimu wonders if Charles Fielding could be her father, given that that he is the same colour as she is.  In the meantime, there are other stories unfolding.  Sarah Fielding befriends Adimu, while others seek to take advantage of her.  And when Charles Fielding, in desperation, joins forces with the local witch doctor, Zuberi, the threat to Adimu increases.  Dead or alive, she is a valuable commodity.  Who can Adimu trust?  Can she survive?

‘The stories our people tell about zeru zerus are myths.  You have a different skin color, that’s all.’

There are a number of layers of complexity to this novel.  The power of both superstition and greed are constant themes, as is ignorance.  I kept reading, wanting a fairytale ending for Adimu’s story, hoping that her life would improve.  I kept reading, reminded that greed and superstition are not confined to Africa, that difference is all too frequently feared.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#HelpAfrican Albinos