From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Fifteen-year-old Sabine lives a life of luxury with her wealthy Indian family in Kampala, Uganda. Then Idi Amin comes to power and things change quickly. All British Indians are expelled from the country. Sabine's father thinks they will be safe because they are Ugandan citizens, but they soon discover that they are in serious danger. Sabine's beloved uncle disappears, and her friend Zena, who is African, turns against her because Zena's military uncle has convinced her that the Ugandan Indians have exploited the African populace. The book effectively portrays the rising terror and violence in 1972 as Sabine struggles to deal with a world falling apart. Prejudices are clearly delineated, and the thin veneer of civilization crumbles as the chilling background beat of the radio relentlessly counts down the days left before all British Indians must leave the country. Sabine is a mature, intelligent character amid the chaos, and the political situation is well realized through her eyes. Secondary characters add depth to the story, and Sabine's star-crossed crush on Zena's older brother makes her a realistic adolescent. Nail-biting suspense is maintained to the end as Sabine must make the agonizing decision to leave her grandfather behind to save the rest of the family. Excellent historical fiction about a timely yet sadly universal subject.—Quinby Frank, Green Acres School, Rockville, MD
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Sabine is 15 years old in the summer of 1972, when Ugandan president Idi Amin issues his proclamation that all “foreign Indians” must leave the country within 90 days. Unlike many of the Indians in their Kampala community, Sabine was born in Uganda, and although she is of Indian ancestry, she feels as much a Ugandan as her best friend, Zena, an “ethnic African.” As the countdown continues, though, the terrifying street violence reaches into Sabine’s home, and she realizes that despite her family’s Ugandan citizenship, they aren’t immune from the president’s decree. Nanji, who grew up in East Africa, exposes a period of shocking, rarely viewed political history in this vivid story that makes the horrors feel both personal and universal. Sabine’s close, realistic friendship with Zena, who admires “Dada Amin,” mirrors societal warfare over issues of class, race, and nationhood. The story’s authentic emotions and relationships balance the detailed cultural and historical explanations and combine in a gripping story of a remarkable teen who helps her family face impossible loss. Grades 7-12. --Gillian Engberg