Cristiano Gentili wrote his novel Then She Was Born to dramatize the plight of albinos in traditional African societies. Often albinos are killed as bCristiano Gentili wrote his novel Then She Was Born to dramatize the plight of albinos in traditional African societies. Often albinos are killed as babies. If they live, they're ostracized and sometimes hunted and killed. Although the novel is too didactic for my taste, it's competently written and entertaining. Gentili's prose is graceful, precise, and occasionally poetic. His lush descriptions bring the characters and settings to live.
The protagonist, a girl named Adimu, is unforgettable in her yearning to be loved and accepted, to be seen. As an albino she is a nonperson in her tribe. Rejected by her parents, she would have been left in the forest to die if her grandmother hadn't taken her in. Her determination gives the story its strong emotional center.
Other characters are clearly defined and seem rather simple in their motivations--at first. Adimu's grandmother is haunted by guilt for letting her own albino child be killed. Her mother, Juma, yearns for her husband to take her back. (He discards Juma for giving birth to an albino.) The witch doctor craves prestige. The servant of wealthy mine owner Charles Fielding wants to please his master. Charles' wife yearns for a child. Charles himself desperately wants to increase his wealth and clings to an irrational belief in luck.
Some of the characters grow and change, but not always coherently. The most obvious example is Charles, whose character arc comes off as mechanical, designed to advance the plot and/or illustrate the theme. His contradictory epiphanies seem to pop out of nowhere just in time to move the plot in a certain direction.
Some bits of the story are heavyhanded in driving home the theme. Take the bus driver who transports Adimu and her albino friend. he recklessly passes another vehicle in a dangerous spot and almost collides a head-on with a truck. Since albinos are considered lucky, he's not surprised that he survived; the zeru zeru girls have brought him luck. Some days later, two albino boys board the bus. "Certain of his good luck," the driver once again tries an ill-advised pass, but this time--BAM!--he's dead, along with many of his innocent passengers.
Then She Was Born presents Western science as the cure for backward native superstitions. No doubt it is. But European colonization of Africa has been far from benign. (Read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.) To be fair, the novel alludes to the destructive side of the European presence in Africa. One of the zeru zeru hunters recalls the vicious white mercenaries who trained him to kill. Individual white characters do some very bad things. But the overall message is that tribal culture needs to change. The novel doesn't address the question of whether or how the positive aspects of the culture might survive.
Putting aside the criticisms, I respect Gentili's campaign and admire most aspects of the novel. Then She Was Born is worth your time and its cause certainly deserves our support.
In his international conspiracy thriller Death and Dark Money—the fourth book of the Sabel Security series— Seeley James shows how loopholes in CitizeIn his international conspiracy thriller Death and Dark Money—the fourth book of the Sabel Security series— Seeley James shows how loopholes in Citizens United open the door for foreign corporations and nations to influence American policy. Pia Sabel, ex-Olympic soccer player, now runs her adoptive father’s international security company. The company receives a contract from an influential firm of lobbyists that includes a mysterious twenty million dollar payment for seemingly nothing. When Pia wants to know where the money comes and what it’s buying, she becomes a target. One thread of the plot traces this money to its source.