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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 survive, Habo must not only run, but find a way to love and accept himself.
- ISBN-13: 9780399161124
- ISBN-10: 0399161120
- Publisher: Putnam Publishing Group
- Publish Date: June 2013
- Page Count: 354
- Reading Level: Ages 12-17
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-07-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Sullivan's standout debut spotlights the quest of 13-year-old Habo, an albino ("zeruzeru") struggling to survive in Tanzania, where albinos are both reviled and prized; some even believe that their limbs possess magic and are willing to kill for them. The narrative begins in the small village of Arusha, where Habo, his mother, and siblings are starving. The family decides to immigrate to the city of Mwanza, in hopes of finding stability. In raw, candid prose, Sullivan conveys Habo's learned shame and the violence that his family encounters as a result of their poverty and perceived difference. Habo's sense of liberation is almost palpable when an elderly, blind sculptor trains him as an apprentice and begins to show him the meaning of unconditional love. Weaving in Kiswahili words and phrases, Sullivan presents a nuanced view of Tanzanian culture and its entangled economic circumstances, while writing vividly of the country's landscape. Though the novel is horrifying in parts, Habo's tender interactions with those he loves combat the sense of lurking dread that, most often, takes human form. Ages 12–up. Agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (June)
To survive a killer, a boy must learn to accept himself
“Even to the strangers, I am strange,” remarks 13-year-old Habo, short for Dhahabo, which means “golden” in his home country of Tanzania. The teen never feels the warmth suggested by his special name, given to him for his light appearance due to albinism, but is instead an outcast in his world. With a father who abandoned the family after Habo’s birth, a mother who rarely touches him and an embarrassed brother who encourages taunting, Habo has spent most of his life alone.
When Habo’s family is faced with losing their meager farm, they head to their Auntie’s house in Mwanza. Upon their arrival, Habo quickly learns that this superstitious city is dangerous for a zeruzeru (literally, “zero-zero”) or person with albinism. Witch doctors hunt people like Habo to kill them and sell their body parts to those who believe they bring good luck. If Habo can reach the city of Dar es Salaam, where albino ministers of parliament serve, he may finally find a place to feel at ease. But first he must outrun an evil poacher who will stop at nothing to track and kill him. Their heart-stopping chase across cities leaves readers with Habo’s palpable fear until the final pages.
In a riveting teen novel, a Tanzanian boy with albinism searches for a place to belong.
In Golden Boy, first-time author Tara Sullivan brings to light this lesser-known and growing human rights problem, which occurs in several East African nations where the rate of albinism is higher than in other parts of the world. In telling the story, Sullivan sprinkles in phrases from Habo’s native language and facts about people with albinism, including their poor eyesight and increased susceptibility to skin cancer. She bases the harrowing account on actual events and shows how strange notions of good luck cross all socioeconomic levels.
Sullivan offers hope, too, through a blind sculptor who “sees” Habo’s true spirit and encourages his self-esteem. An author’s note and other resources provide more information on the teen’s plight, in the hope that Habo’s story will move many readers to take action.