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Then She Was Born
Cristiano Gentili, trans. from the Italian by Lori Hetherington. #HelpAfricanAlbinos, $3.99 ebook (320) ASIN B01N214BWU
Gentili’s novel successfully pleads the case for improved treatment of African albinos, despite some flawed character construction. From the moment that Adimu, an albino girl, is born, she is in danger from those around her; in her island community of Ukerewe in Tanzania, an albino is not a person but a zeru zeru, “phantom” in Swahili. Her paternal grandmother, Nkamba, rescues her from being killed upon birth and raises her. Few others in Adimu’s community show her any kindness—her parents disown her, other children taunt her when they aren’t ignoring her, and the local shaman, Zuberi, wants to make charms from her body. Charles Fielding, a wealthy white mine owner, wants nothing to do with Adimu, but his wife, Sarah, dreams of adopting her. When Nkamba dies, Adimu is treated like a servant by the rest of her family and sought by kidnappers who would sell her body to men like Zuberi. While Gentili creates a fully realized character in Adimu, others are less believable—Charles’s behavior is very inconsistent, while Zuberi is simply a caricature of an evil and ambitious “witch doctor.” Still, despite the inconsistent storytelling, the novel is a detailed portrait of its community and is an intriguing look at a lesser-known aspect of Tanzanian life. (BookLife)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 10/05/2018

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