Nanji, Shenaaz. Child of Dandelions. Toronto: Second Story Press, 2008. EPUB file.
This check out was a mistake. I was trying to figure out how to get a book from our district ebook collection to my Kindle, when I just hit a "random" title. This was it. I liked the cover. I started reading and found myself continuing the story.
This is Sabine's story. She is a Ugandan Indian. Her skin is brown. Her best friend is Zena. She is African. Her skin is black.
The year is 1972.
The new government has issued an evacuation of all Indians out of Uganda. Sabine doesn't think this applies to her, as she is Ugandan. She was born here. Her father was born here. Her grandfather came and worked the land and built a thriving business. The government is not trying to expel her. (She thinks).
Race tensions are high and as a reader, I felt my racing heart several times wondering what would happen. The story is told through Sabine's eyes. The soldiers she sees become enemies because of their treatment towards Indians.
The tension between skin color creates a rift in Sabine's and Zena's friendship. Zena says, "I must break this cycle [working for Sabine's family] or we'll always be your slaves" (Nanji 119). She further explains and perpetuates the new government's propaganda when she says, "Your people have clogged up our land" and "You took our land and made us look after it. Now we want it back." Nanji 119). Even though this story takes place in 1972, these accusations are timeless. One side sees another side as the enemy. Sabine is angry at her friend's new stance and declares that "Friendship was not a football to be tossed around and kicked" (Nanji 129). I love the metaphor.
The evacuation affects Sabine's family. Her uncle is missing and ends up dead. Her Papa must flee. Throughout the story, he has called Sabine his "brave boy" and tells her to be brave when he leaves. She obeys.
Katana works for Sabine's family. He is African. Sabine realizes "It was not only Mr. Singh or Lalita who were prejudiced, but she and her family as well. The whites and the soldiers, too. They were all prejudcied" (Nanji 170). Her innocence is destroyed. "She and her family had been treating the Africans like the untouchables in India" (Nanji 169).
For a young lady, she must grow up quickly. She realizes that there are different kinds of courage--like a crayon box. She wonders "what color was she?" (Nanji 173). I liked this description, too.
Nanji's writing is vivid, truthful and not overly sentimental. When Sabine tries to get the required paperwork for her family, the scene is described so vividly. The lipande line "coiled and curved for hundreds of yards along Jinja Road, a long, bright slithering serpent whose head was the tall, red-brick Immigration Office building. Its jaws were the double glass doors that opened every few minutes to let a few people in and then closed" (Nanji 199).
When she and her family ultimately leave their home, Sabine very maturely states, "It's just a house, she thought. It became a home only when it was filled with the love, trust, and hopes of her family. Turtles carry their homes with them so they are always at home. I will carry my home with me" (Nanji 220).
I do not know Ugandan history, but after reading this story, I've learned about a piece. It seems that this story could be taking place in the present, as I hear stories on the news of "ethnic cleansing"--or maybe I don't even pay attention to the stories because it takes place "over there." I'm glad my check out "mistake" turned into an interesting read.