From Publishers Weekly
Born into the Karko tribe in the Nuba mountains of northern Sudan, Nazer has written a straightforward, harrowing memoir that's a sobering reminder that slavery still needs to be stamped out. The first, substantial section of the book concentrates on Nazer's idyllic childhood, made all the more poignant for the misery readers know is to come. Nazer is presented as intelligent and headstrong, and her people as peaceful, generous and kind. In 1994, around age 12 (the Nuba do not keep birth records), Nazer was snatched by Arab raiders, raped and shipped to the nation's capital, Khartoum, where she was installed as a maid for a wealthy suburban family. (For readers expecting her fate to include a grimy factory or barren field, the domesticity of her prison comes as a shock.) To Nazer, the modern landscape of Khartoum could not possibly have been more alien; after all, she had never seen even a spoon, a mirror or a sink, much less a telephone or television set. Nazer's urbane tormentors-mostly the pampered housewife-beat her frequently and dehumanized her in dozens of ways. They were affluent, petty and calculatedly cruel, all in the name of "keeping up appearances." The contrast between Nazer's pleasant but "primitive" early life and the horrors she experienced in Khartoum could hardly be more stark; it's an object lesson in the sometimes dehumanizing power of progress and creature comforts. After seven years, Nazer was sent to work in the U.K., where she contacted other Sudanese and eventually escaped to freedom. Her book is a profound meditation on the human ability to survive virtually any circumstances.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* The shock of this title is that it refers to what is happening right now, in Sudan, Africa, and also in the West. Ten years ago, when Mende Nazer was about 12 years old, she was captured in an Arab raid on her remote Nuba village, and, with about 30 other black Muslim children, she was sold into slavery. For eight years, she toiled as a domestic worker for a wealthy family in Khartoum, beaten and abused by her vicious owners, who then sent her to work for a relative in London, an important Sudanese diplomat. With only broken English and no friends, she remained locked up and isolated until finally she managed to escape and tell her story. And it doesn't end there: the U.K. refused her asylum ("Slavery is not persecution"). Now in 2003, the British government has given in to the global pressure of human-rights groups and allowed her to stay. Journalist Lewis helped her escape, and he spent months interviewing her. He tells her story in a clear, compelling, first-person narrative that conveys her young voice with powerful authenticity. Her memories of childhood in her Nuba village are idyllic (except for her brutal circumcision, described in graphic detail). But the core of the book is her daily labor and abuse as a house slave. The details are unforgettable, capturing both the innocence of the child and the world-weariness of one who has endured the worst. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved