Good Braider : A Novel
by Farish, Terry

Follows Viola as she survives brutality in war-torn Sudan, makes a perilous journey, lives as a refugee in Egypt, and finally reaches Portland, Maine, where her quest for freedom and security is hampered by memories of past horrors and the traditions her mother and other Sudanese adults hold dear.

*Starred Review* Like Mark Bixler's adult book The Lost Boys of Sudan (2005), this powerful novel tells today's refugee story from a young viewpoint, but here the Sudanese teen is a girl. In free-verse poems, Viola, 16, remembers being driven from home in the brutal civil war, then the long, barefoot trek to Khartoum and Cairo, escaping land mines and suffering hunger along the way, until at last she and her mother get refugee status, board a plane, and join her uncle in Portland, Maine's Sudanese community. Never exploitative, Viola's narrative will grip readers with its harsh truths: the shame of her rape in Sudan and the loss of her "bride wealth"; the heartbreak when her little brother dies during their escape; her wrenching separation from her grandmother. The contemporary drama in Maine is also moving and immediate. At 17, Viola is thrilled to go to school, and she makes friends, even a boyfriend who teaches her to drive: but can he get over her rape? Always there is her mother, enraged by the new ways. An essential addition to the growing list of strong immigrant stories for youth. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

From Sudan to Maine, in free verse. It's 1999 in Juba, and the second Sudanese civil war is in full swing. Viola is a Bari girl, and she lives every day in fear of the government soldiers occupying her town. In brief free-verse chapters, Viola makes Juba real: the dusty soil, the memories of sweetened condensed milk, the afternoons Viola spends braiding her cousin's hair. But there is more to Juba than family and hunger; there are the soldiers, and the danger, and the horrifying interactions with soldiers that Viola doesn't describe but only lets the reader infer. As soon as possible, Viola's mother takes the family to Cairo and then to Portland, Maine-but they won't all make it. First one and then another family member is brought down by the devastating war and famine. After such a journey, the culture shock in Portland is unsurprisingly overwhelming. "Portland to New York: 234 miles, / New York to Cairo: 5,621 miles, / Cairo to Juba: 1,730 miles." Viola tries to become an American girl, with some help from her Sudanese friends, a nice American boy and the requisite excellent teacher. But her mother, like the rest of the Sudanese elders, wants to run her home as if she were back in Juba, and the inevitable conflict is heartbreaking. Refreshing and moving: avoids easy answers and saviors from the outside. (historical note) (Fiction. 13-15) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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