the bite of the mango

Good Essays
Topics: Sierra Leone
Review

For many American students, bloody conflicts in Africa seem so far away, so impersonal and contrary to their own experiences that they have trouble connecting to the people whose lives are affected or to the larger issues of the arms trade, blood diamonds, corruption, poverty or refugees. The Bite of the Mango personalizes the horrors of Sierra Leone's experiences with civil conflict through the actual experiences of a 12 year old girl who suffered greatly yet overcame many hardships to make a new life for herself in Canada.

As the book begins, Mariatu is a happy little girl growing up in Magborou, a village of 200 near Port Loko, Sierra Leone. The first chapter teaches the reader about life in extended families where children may grow up under the care of relatives, men may have two or more wives and several generations live and work together. Mariatu tells us about her friends, her attraction to a possible boyfriend, Musa, her hopes of going to school one day, and her scary dream of standing in palm oil, a signifier of bad things to come. We learn about village life from preparations for a funeral, rotating crops of cassava and rice, dances, secret societies, and a child's daily chores of carrying water and collecting firewood.

The rebels who are storming villages and committing atrocities across Sierra Leone are almost a footnote until one day Mariatu and her friends come into a village as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, who are mostly young boys, are burning it. We can almost feel Mariatu's desperation as she watches her friends and neighbors being burned or hacked to death. Just when she thinks she may escape, one of the rebels grabs her and says which one of your hands do you want to lose first? He decides to cut off her hands "because I don't want you to vote." The scene of the young boys, cutting off her hands is truly horrible. Mariatu runs away bleeding terribly and has to push herself to keep going until she can find help. A

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