“As it aims to correct misperceptions about Sierra Leone and to raise awareness of the needs of child victims of war, this book will unsettle readers—and then inspire them with the evidence of Mariatu’s courage.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“This haunting memoir adds an essential voice to the growing body of literature about Sierra Leone’s civil war” —Booklist
As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry.
But one day when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers kidnapped and tortured her. In a brutal act of senseless violence, they cut off both her hands.
Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously made her way to the capital, Freetown, where she had to turn to begging to survive.
This heart-rending memoir, written together with journalist Susan McClelland, not only chronicles her physical and emotional journey to the present, but stands as a testament to her astonishing courage and resilience.
Reviews & Accolades
“Relaying her experiences as a child in Sierra Leone during the 1990s, Kamara chillingly evokes the devastating effects of war…Written with journalist McClelland, her story is deeply personal yet devoid of self-pity. As it aims to correct misperceptions about Sierra Leone and to raise awareness of the needs of child victims of war, this book will unsettle readers—and then inspire them with the evidence of Mariatu’s courage.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Kamara’s account of the atrocities she suffered at the hands of rebel soldiers in Sierra Leone is both harrowing and hopeful…Her narrative is honest, raw, and powerful. In the same vein as Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Farrar, 2007), the book sheds light on a plight of which many people are still unaware.” —Kelly McGorray, School Library Journal
“This haunting memoir adds an essential voice to the growing body of literature about Sierra Leone’s civil war…Kamara’s account, shaped by journalist McClelland, is made even more powerful by the plain, direct language that presents the horrifying facts without sensationalizing. Even more astonishing than the inconceivable crimes that Kamara endures is the strength, forgiveness, and hope that she discovers as she heals.” —Booklist
“McClelland uses Mariatu’s spare language to drive this gripping story, preventing it from lapsing into a sensationalized account of horrific violence. Although the images of war and hostility are truly disturbing, Mariatu’s indomitable spirit will resonate most with teens. Her determination to maintain control and responsibility for her own decisions will undoubtedly inspire readers of all ages. Indeed the same resolve that led her out of the jungle and helped her discover new ways to function without hands, eventually led her to a new life in Canada that includes college, friends, and important work as a UNICEF representative.” —VOYA
Effects of war on children, survival, child rape, trauma, immigration
Magborou, Sierra Leone
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Shortly after she moved to North America, Mariatu Kamara met magazine writer Susan McClelland. McClelland, an investigative reporter and staff writer at the time for Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly news-magazine and a former writer for the Miami Herald, frequently wrote on human rights issues, particularly through the telling of personal stories. Over the years, McClelland and Kamara kept in touch. When Ishmael Beah’s book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier was released in 2007, McClelland, having become a freelance journalist after the birth of her two daughters, wrote side by side stories on Beah and Kamara in the Globe and Mail. Following publication of the pieces, Kamara asked to meet Beah. During that meeting, Kamara expressed her desire to tell her own story. When Beah began his talk in Toronto later that evening, he said that was needed next was a story of a girl from the war. Kamara slipped her arm through McClelland’s and said: “When do we begin.”
McClelland has written four other books in addition to Bite of the Mango. In every case, she has had to immerse herself in a different culture than her own, which is Scottish/Canadian. In one interview she said that at the beginning of each book she tries to get rid of her mind: “including her western biases, viewpoints, ways of processing information and sentiments, to really listen to the subject of her books and tell their stories accurately, reflective of their cultures and story telling methods.”
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