Mariatu Kamara The Bite of Mango

ISBN 13: 9781554511587

The Bite of Mango

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As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry. But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands. Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown. As told to her by Mariatu, journalist Susan McClelland has written the heartbreaking true story of the brutal attack, its aftermath and Mariatu’s eventual arrival in Toronto where she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.

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About the Author:

Now 21 years old, Mariatu Kamara will embark this year on a North American speaking tour as a UNICEF Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflicts. A documentary about her life is in development.

Susan McClelland is an award-winning journalist and recipient of the 2005 Amnesty International Media Award. She lives in Toronto.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Foreword

In my culture, every story is told with the purpose of either imparting knowledge, repairing a broken bond, or transforming the listener and the teller. Mariatu's story embodies all of these elements. I have been waiting for such a story, one that reminds us all of the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

The Bite of the Mango is a rare account, written in a chillingly honest voice, of how a 12-year-old girl became a victim of one of the most brutal wars of the 20th century. It is the story of how this girl survived to start life over again, after being robbed not only of her childhood but of her hands. She has had to learn to live without them. What does it feel like to be unable to wipe away your own tears of deep sadness, to stand without hands to push you up? Mariatu tells us about these experiences and many more in her narrative of lost innocence, betrayal, and recovery during an arduous and bloodcurdling time. She describes the humility, culture, and interaction of a closely knit village community in Sierra Leone, and explores how war fueled our country's disintegration into a society filled with suspicion and distrust as neighbor turned against neighbor, child against child, and child against parent.

This powerful and timely story is told in simple language that captures both the innocence of the teller and her desperation to create a deepening awareness about the suffering of children caught up in the madness of war. "It is difficult to start talking about what happened during the war, but once you start, you have to go on," Mariatu told me when we met in April 2007. I believe that she exemplifies this same strategy in every aspect of her life.

The light and joy in Mariatu's face don't show you that she is someone whose heart once said goodbye to everything she knew. Meeting this remarkable young woman changes one's idea of what it means to be a victim of war. The media often focus on the trauma people suffer, forgetting to tell us about their ability to recover and the humanity that remains intact. Mariatu's story gives that necessary human context to what it means to be both a victim and a survivor, to transform your life and continue to live with vigor.

I am deeply thankful that the world will be able to meet Mariatu through this book.

Ishmael Beah
New York, June 2008

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ISBN 10:  1554511593 ISBN 13:  9781554511594
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