Child of Dandelions Paperback – Sep 1 2008
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Quill & Quire
In 1972, Idi Amin had a dream in which God told him to expel Uganda’s 80,000 ethnic Indians. They had 90 days to leave. Set during this tumultuous period, Child of Dandelions is a stirring coming-of-age novel that follows 15-year-old Sabine as she copes with the reality that she and her family are no longer welcome in the land of her birth. Shenaaz Nanji, who was born in Kenya and now lives in Calgary, carefully builds tension during this 90-day countdown. On day one, when Sabine watches a crowd cheer the announcement, her best friend Zena (who is African) calmly tells her not to worry, since Amin only wants to get rid of Indians with a British passport. But as the days go by, Sabine realizes that there’s an even darker side to the expulsion order: first her beloved uncle goes missing, then soldiers burst into her home searching for her businessman father. Drawing on her own experiences for this, her first YA novel, Nanji creates a nuanced story that addresses issues of class and race.Indian shopkeepers ignore Zena, the girls’ friendship becomes strained, and she realizes her own parents treat their servants the way they would untouchables in India. Sabine’s family must make some difficult choices, and she and her younger brother get separated from their parents. Though she keeps the graphic details to a minimum, Nanji deftly depicts Sabine’s anxiety. The novel’s only weak spot is the too-tidy airport reconciliation between Zena and Sabine. Otherwise, Nanji dramatizes an episode that brought thousands of refugees to Canada, and she highlights the horrors they and others faced. The novel ends with a postscript that suggests the exiled Indians were the lucky ones, given the estimated half-a-million Ugandans who were killed during the Amin regime.
A stirring coming-of-age novel. (Quill & Quire 20081201)See all Product Description
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Sabine, the hero of this story, watches as her culture, friendships, and family are swept away by the evil of socialism. Watches as her girlhood friend is turned into a child prostitute for the President. Watches as her family is blamed for their successes and resilience by scummy soldiers motivated by greed.
Sabine develops a "blame the victim" mindset: "Aunty, it is our fault. We took advantage of them..." p. 180. Understandable in the character, but false.
Parents should be aware that Sabine travels to a cold-storage warehouse where the mutilated bodies of tortured political prisoners wait to be identified and dumped into the crcodile-infested lake for disposal. She sees the maimed corpses, and so does the reader. Various types of torture-killings are described with friendly names: "helicopter treatment," "hammer treatment," etc. Also, Sabine barely escapes being raped by a soldier as she tries to get her paperwork to flee the regime. Lower age limit of 14, is my recommendation.
Nanji - a children's book author has made an impressive debut into the Young Adult genre with her new book!
Nanji resists the temptation to turn the characters into stereotypes; there are no all evil or all good people in this novel, but you see shades of gray in each one: Sabine's racist but kind family friend. Sabine's family's loyal African servant, who thinks of her family as his own. Sabine's African best friend who worships Idi Amin and agrees that, for the good of Uganda, the Indians must go. Her friend's uncle who is one of those abusing the Indians but protects Sabine's family at risk to himself. Sabine's grandfather, who's carrying a secret. Occasional phrases in African and Indian languages are sprinkled throughout and add authenticity without being distracting.
This story is taut and suspenseful. As the countdown continues and the tensions escalate, readers will keenly feel Sabine's fear and uncertainty. A fine work; I would recommend it, and read this author again.
This is part of history that not many people around the world know about. I was born in Jinja Uganda in 1966 and just 6 years later President Dada Idi Amin ordered an expulsion of all Foreign Indians and he imposed the 90 day count-down. This is my history and part of my life that has been deeply engraved in my memory. Reading Child of Dandelions really bought back the reality of what had gone on during this period. I loved the book because of that. It finally allowed me to let "The Book Gems". to feel for themselves the actual truth, the fear and sacrifies my family and other indian families had to make. It is a must read for all to find the terror and the truth about Uganda and Dada Ide Amin. I also choose The Shattered Pearl by Sara Armstrong to read along side Child of Dandelions both are easy reads but the knowledge acquired is of any history lecture given on Uganda. I loved both books. Greatly written and a very compelling story.