"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

Golden Boy is a debut novel set in modern day Tanzania by Tara Sullivan, a fellow high school teacher.  Here is the summary:
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...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. -Summary from Tara Sullivan's Web Page
Habo is short for Dhahabo, which means golden in Kiswahili, the language of Tanzania. No one in Habo's village has ever seen an albino before and consider him very unlucky. I have to tell you right off, this book really got to me.  It made me so angry and the tension was so palpable that I had to shut the book to make myself stop reading in order to calm myself down. The only other time I remember being so affected by a book was when I read The Poisonwood Bible, interestingly it is also set in Africa. Why was I so angry? Although this book is a work of fiction, the situations portrayed in it are true. According to the information provided at the back of the book, this issue in Tanzania around hunting albinos is actually going on now and is a relatively new problem. Under the Same Sun, a nonprofit organization working to rescue people from albinism attacks, reported in June 2012 that 71 people with albinism have been murdered in Tanzania and another 28 escaped but with severe mutilations. How and why do such weird beliefs spring up? It is frightening and disgusting. Like I said, it really got to me.

At any rate, Golden Boy has just catapulted itself onto my list of top YA books of the year. The topic, living in Africa with albinism, is certainly a unique one. Yes, it is a story about prejudice and the effects of poor education, but it is also a story of acceptance and of bravery. Habo becomes a complete person by the story's end, not just a "zeruzeru" (nothing) as he is called by others his whole life. His growth is applaudable. Sullivan also proves that she is an author to be reckoned with by using wonderful prose as she describes the Tanzanian settings and the inner turmoil of our young protagonist. Here she describes a day in the life with one brief sentence: "...the day drags its dusty body across us, crushing me with the weight of a hundred tiny tasks." I know that feeling. don't you?

One additional aspect of Golden Boy that I really liked made it apparent that Sullivan had done her homework. She not only describes that landscape of Tanzania with picturesque language, she sprinkles Kiswahili words throughout. To aid the reader she provides a short dictionary of words and phrases at the back of the book. I consulted it often. The use of Kiswahili words lends the book an air of authenticity not often found in books whose settings are different from our own.

I think that this cover art is spectacular and perfect for the story so it is noteworthy. The young man is barely in focus, as if he barely exists, just as Habo barely exists at the beginning of the story. Here's a shout out to the artist, Jesse Joshua Watson, and the cover designer, Ryan Thomann.

I highly recommend this book. Asante (thank you) to the publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, for providing me the ARC from which I wrote this review.

30 books this Summer Reading Challenge

26 / 30 books. 86% done!


  1. Wow...I had no IDEA things like this happened! I'm not sure I'll be able to convince myself to read the book, because I got pretty upset just reading the review haha (maybe one day I will overcome my aversion to distressing things)

    1. Thanks for following my blog!...I actually don't usually update that one though, I use it for big spoilers in my other posts on this blog. I appreciate you stopping by and thanks for reminding me about GFC! I forgot I had taken GFC off my current blog, so I've fixed it :)

  2. Okay. I am going to get this one. I read another book that had a little bit about the treatment of albinos with witch doctor medicine. This one sounds SO good!


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