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Was Tabitha 8 Years Old?

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Lauren So, I decided to look up Tabitha, because I was curious to see if there was a picture of her after hearing so many times about how beautiful she was. After searching for a refugee in Seattle who was murdered, I found a near-certain match, a young woman named Roda Bec. She was stabbed by her 27-year-old ex-boyfriend, Kero Riiny Giir, also from Sudan, who then jumped off an overpass but survived. So far, she seems to be an exact match for the person called Tabitha in the book.

The weird thing is, she was 16 when she was murdered. She was 16, and her ex-boyfriend was 27. In 2005, if I'm calculating correctly, Achak Deng would have been 26/27 as well. This means that when he first falls in love with her at the camp, she is 8 YEARS OLD. When they go on a date in Nairobi and have their first kiss, he is 22 and she is 12 YEARS OLD. Is this not weirding anyone else out? That is a crazy age difference!

Am I calculating wrong? I can't find anyone anywhere who has brought this up before. That would also mean that when she came to stay with Achak, she would have been about 15 and he would have been 25. I'll be honest - I'm pretty uncomfortable with that idea, so I'm hoping I'm missing something.

Daren even if you did calculate it properly and have the right girl... different cultures... 22/12 probly isnt that weird at all where they are from. how could this be the part of the book that disturbs you?

Lauren Thanks for commenting Daren. My personal belief is that child marriage is never okay, not matter what culture you're in, and I definitely don't go in for cultural relativism. Not to mention that part of his relationship with this 15-year-old was when they had been in the United States for some time, where it is actually illegal to have a sexual relationship with such an age difference.

Also, I am a fully-functional human being who is able to be disturbed by more than one thing at a time - weird, right? Did you notice that I never wrote "This is the only thing I find disturbing about the book. Everything else was really cool and awesome."?

There is and has been a lot of discussion about the other disturbing parts of the book - the murders, the deaths, the starvation, even the inadequacies of the UN and international support. The fact that the main character may have "fallen in love" with an 8-year-old girl has not, to my knowledge, been addressed in any arena. That's why I brought it up here to get other people's opinions.

Daren it seems like you got upset with my reply a bit... wasnt intending to come off rude, just making a quick response.

all i was saying was, it's not strange to them... so they have no reason to change it, even under the conditions they came here... they didnt come here concerned if their culture would be considered legal... they came here so they wouldnt have to fear being hacked to pieces by machete.

who knows, given enough time they might have assimilated?

Severine Other articles mention that Roda Bec was 22 at the time of death.

Unfortunately, I was not able to locate any official documents to clarify the matter.

But I have to counter with Lauren. I grew up in Russia, a country not very advanced, breaching many human rights but still better off than Sudan, with functioning schools, hospitals and infrastructure. I was also from a privileged family, educated and well off. However, it was only after I turned 21 and have had a chance to live abroad, both in the US and France, that I realized, in utter bewilderment, what age of consent was and how a lot of my own teenage relationships with men older than 18 or even 21, were actually illegal by Western standards.

That said, if Roda was, indeed, 16 when she died, I completely support the author's decision to keep such details out of the narrative, especially since it's a novel, not non-fiction. The age difference would become a blemish, and I can only imagine how many would flood in, pontificating about the protagonist's choices and saying how the Sudanese deserve the genocides for being immoral child abusers.

In fact, this strive for "perfect victims" is addressed in the narrative itself, when the narrator talks about how the Americans helping the refugees want to make sure they've had nothing to do with the SPLA, even if by accident.

Joanne I have worked with a number of African Refugees and most are 5-8 years older than the birthdates (always January 1) listed on their North American paperwork. I have seen supposed high school students with receding hairlines etc. Usually it is because by pretending to be younger this individuals have the opportunity to attend school and become socially acclimatized to North American life. Based on this I would suspect that Roda Bec "Tabitha" was likely closer to 22 at the time of her unfortunate death.

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