I was very pleased to have the opportunity to work on this wonderful story by first-time novelist Tara Sullivan. Ms. Sullivan’s parents were international aid workers, so she says she grew up conversant in the issues of international justice and poverty alleviation. Having run across a news piece several years ago addressing the plight of African albinos, she was moved to bring more attention to their situation. Instead of writing a treatise or white paper, however, she has written this marvelously engaging novel which, in my mind, does as much to highlight the matter as any policy tome could.
I really enjoyed this story — as a story. It has heart and soul as well as some pulse-pounding excitement. I also think I learned a few things along the way, including a few words and phrases in Kiswahili.
Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different— light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can’t take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame.
Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt albinos in Mwanza because albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To keep his life, Habo must run, not knowing if he can ever stop.