Then She was Born Reviewed By Steve Moore of Bookpleasures.com
Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
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Author: Cristiano Gentili
Themes weaving in and around a plot make an ordinary piece of fiction extraordinary. Here there is only one theme: the fate of African albinos, human beings who are shunned and ignored at best and hunted and killed to make amulets at worst. This book follows the trajectory of one little girl who is born into this cultural maelstrom. Even part way into it, I knew this would go in my list of significant books, “Steve’s Bookshelf,” on my website. The story is a quietly gripping one and is connected to the author’s cause—see helpafricanalbinos.com. It also offers insight into the cultural clashes and vestiges of colonialism in Africa.
The original version of this jewel was written in Italian, but the English translation, like all good translations, is well done. The book generally uses the omniscient point-of-view, which I find confusing at times, but otherwise it is a deep and profound look at cultural clashes in Tanzania. I could hardly put it down. If your heart doesn’t ache for the main character, I’d be disappointed.
From the title, readers can guess that the story begins with Adimu’s birth, who was saved only because grandmother Nkamba also had an albino child. Driven by guilt and remorse, she decides to save Adimu from her parents, the tribal shaman, and the tribe itself, all full of superstitions caused by traditions stemming from ignorance. From Adimus’s point of view, though, she still faces a mighty struggle to be recognized as a human being, or even to be considered more than a nobody who deserves to live.
It doesn’t help that the white owner of two local mines finds his business collapsing. Although educated in England and able to put on the cloak of privilege and culture, that thin veneer of English propriety soon wears off as he succumbs to the African superstitions too, exhibiting an evil not stemming from ignorance, a much greater sin. Adimu’s mood improves when she meets other albino children, but that euphoria doesn’t last long as the foray into the wider world causes her many problems.
This book is my kind of book. A meta-theme in all my own fiction is the existence of evil in the world and how, even if it’s just the work of a few enlightened individuals, it must be fought. When that evil hides in human superstitions and/or religious trappings, that fight can be difficult. We have far too many examples of this. This book is about Adimu’s personal battle, but this fictional character represents the overall cause Mr. Gentili is championing. Highly recommended.