Review for “Golden Boy” by Tara Sullivan (2013)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Ay, I loved this story.
Before I read this book, I was only slightly aware of the killings of albinos in Africa, specifically in the country of Tanzania. Tanzania, an eastern African nation, is home to an above-average number of albinos, who are targeted for murder by witch doctors and folk healers because it is believed that their skin, hair, and body parts will bring good luck as ingredients for potions and other rituals. In addition to this, they are ostracized in their own families and communities–discriminated against, abandoned, cast out, sometimes even killed as infants.
13-year-old Dhahabo (called ‘Habo’ for short) lives in a small Tanzanian village with his mother and siblings. His father, we learn, left when he was an infant, convinced that his albino son was a portend of bad luck. His mother shows little emotion towards Habo and has reduced herself to tolerating him. His brothers ridicule him, he has no friends. Everyday life fares no better–because of the lack of pigmentation in his eyes, Habo cannot see very well. His skin easily burns in the sun and he is forced to stay indoors, which makes him useless in the eyes of his family. The only one who shows him any hint of kindness is his older sister, Asu, who makes a point to look after him. When dire straits strike the family, Habo and his family leave their village and go to another, where he is shunned once more by his aunt and forced to hide there, due to the fact that her village is known for the murder of albinos. Eventually Habo leaves this situation as well and goes to the larger city of Dar es Salaam, where he finds himself face to face with a man who is determined to murder him for his body parts.
I won’t give away the whole story, but I will say that it is definitely a good one. Habo is a person who you can’t help but to feel empathy for. You want to give him a hug and invite him home for tea. Despite his lot in life, there isn’t a bad bone in his body. When he describes the stares and the pain he feels when people call him a zeruzeru (a word that literally means “zero”, “nothing”) you feel the same pain he feels. It touches your heart.
This novel was a classic adventure story. The author did some great research, and it definitely shows in the writing. Habo’s journey is incredible and worth reading about. Its completely appropriate for middle schoolers, not too weird and definitely not boring