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No Laughter Here Hardcover – December 23, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8--The friendship between two fifth-grade girls is at the center of this powerful novel, which also deals with the issue of female genital mutilation (FMG). Akilah, a 10-year-old African-American girl from Queens, can't wait for her best friend, Victoria, to come home from a visit to her grandmother in Nigeria. The Victoria who returns home, however, seems like a very different girl--quiet, reserved, and unhappy. Akilah spends the first half of the novel trying to figure out what happened to her friend. Victoria finally spills the truth: her family allowed a doctor to remove her clitoris so she would be a "clean and proper" Nigerian girl. Akilah is outraged, but keeps her friend's secret until her mother finds out by accident. Akilah's mother, also angered, screams at Victoria's mother and causes a rift between the two families. Williams-Garcia provides age-appropriate details without using anatomical terms and addresses some cultural issues and contradictions without overwhelming readers. Mostly the story focuses on the relationship between the two girls and Akilah's sometimes troubled bond with her mother. Because the story is told entirely from Akilah's point of view, the emotional impact of FMG is somewhat muted. However, readers with an interest in human rights and world issues may find the novel compelling, and it can also be appreciated as a story about friendship.--Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 4-8. Akilah can't wait to start fifth grade with her best friend, Victoria, who has been in Nigeria for the summer. But Victoria returns completely changed: withdrawn, physically unwell, and unable to laugh. A fifth-grade puberty film gives Victoria the words to tell Akilah what has happened to her: "I don't have what other girls have." Victoria has survived female circumcision, and Akilah is furious but sworn to secrecy, until her warm, supportive parents discover the truth and expose Victoria's family secret. Of the several recent novels about FGM (female genital mutilation), including Pat Collins' The Fattening Hut [BKL N 1 2003], for older readers, Williams-Garcia's story, written in Akilah's colloquial African American voice, is most successful. It combines a richly layered story with accurate, culturally specific information in language that's on-target for the audience, and the author tempers what could have been strident messages with interesting contrasts: Akilah's parents view FGM as an atrocity, even as they revere African culture; Akilah's aunt, who beats her children, raises questions about the forms of brutality ingrained in many families. Then there's Akilah herself, simultaneously confronted with her first menstrual period and the gravity of what has happened to her friend. Readers will have lots of questions for adults after reading this skillfully told, powerful story. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 133 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; 1st edition (December 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688162479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688162474
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #813,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Rarely do I pick up YA (Young Adult) fiction, but as a librarian I have the privilege to see what comes across the table in all genres and to generally see where my nose will lead me. This is a story of two families: African and African-American on American soil. The story centers around two very bright, precocious 5th graders: Victoria and Akiliah. Ms. Garcia does a fine job in creating the minds and concerns of these two young students. When Victoria returns to Nigeria with her family, she undergoes FGM. This change affects both Victoria and Akiliah in more ways than one. Whereas FGM is custom in Africa, here, in America, one sees it as child abuse if not named something else sick and sadistical. The beauty in this story is the insight into young minds, specifically Akiliah's and what causes young people, perfect students, to act out. In Akiliah's case, her perfect record is ruined when she becomes protective of Victoria. Her father has given her the name: Girl Warrior. An alter-ego that allows Akiliah to stand up for herself against everyone, including the defiance of her own mother. The reasons for Akiliah acting out are sort of justified. The author never sides in this matter, but one might surely opine that Akiliah's infractions are just and righteous given the situations she finds herself. We also see how ultra-caddy middle classed black women can be whether African or African-American. All the same except where customs and cultural values are in place. More importantly, No Laugher Here englightens and in some manner furthers the awareness and fight against female mutilation in Africa. The topic is highly serious, however, Ms. Garcia shapes this story in a manner that is easily accessible and educational for all young adults!!
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Format: Hardcover
I was skeptical of a book for young teens and pre-teens dealing with FMG, but Williams-Garcia has written a book that is stunning in its quiet approach and sensitive handling of the material. Her ability to get inside the head of the inquisitive Akilah is so good I stopped being an adult children's librarian and became the outraged angry 5th grader trying to protect her friend. This is an important book and should get immediate and wide readership. Discussion will be necessary with the fifth graders it is aimed at, but older children should be able to handle the disturbing parts. Breathtaking.
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Format: Hardcover
This book presents an overwhelming topic in a very non-overwhelming way. Ten year-old Akilah finds her best friend changed when she comes back from a summer trip to Nigeria to visit her grandmother and go through a "coming of age ceremony." Eventually her friend confesses that her parents took her to an illegal doctor to be circumcised. Akilah promises not to tell anyone, but these things have a way of getting told.

Akilah tells the story from the eyes of a child, but this book is not meant for children. It could serve as a gentle introduction to the idea of Female Genital Mutilation or as a lesson in human rights to middle school students. There is an after word by the author including more facts about FGM and an invitation for kids to email her their thoughts. I would be interested in the sorts of emails she has gotten.

Williams-Garcia borders on overly didactic, but the tone of the book and the friendship between Akilah and Victoria save it from becoming overly so.

I highly recommend this book to girls age 12 and up.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I think this book is for advanced reader's. Some kids think this book is boring or probably wouldn't understand. But the book was good for 10 and up. But I would still recommend this book to somebody a little bit older.
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Format: Hardcover
No Laughter Here is my second favorite young adult book by Rita Williams Garcia. My husband and I often watch independent films at a local theater. One film that we watched in recent years, "Moolaadé", opened our eyes to a taboo custom practiced in Africa, other countries, and even in the United States. While certain films like that one are important to see once, they often are not the type ones wishes to watch again. The subject matter is too difficult. From reviews of No Laughter Here, many people felt the same about this book. I understand. Rita Williams Garcia no doubt intended it more as an awareness book than a fun read. Yet I would happily read No Laughter Here again. I enjoyed the friendship between Akilah and Victoria. I also appreciated the changing dynamics of the relationship of Akihah with her parents and even her teachers. At its core, while about a taboo custom, No Laughter Here is about knowing when to stay quiet and deciding when to take action. It contains an underlying strength and optimism that kept me reading, even through the difficult passages. Of course, it also doesn't hurt to remind myself sometimes of the reasons why we all need to sometimes take a stand.
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Format: Hardcover
This story needed to be told. This is a wonderful story about loyalty and friendship. This books succeeds both as a stand-alone piece of exceptional writing and as a clarion call to raise awareness about this horrific practice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am grateful this book has been written and published for a younger audience. When male circumcision is viewed as a rite of passage, it is often looked at as something boys do to celebrate their entree to adulthood. I've never been in a classroom where students perceived the boys as persecuted or anything less than "brave warriors." In the western world, male circumcision has medical and cultural controversy; there is very little discussion about the mere existence of FMG. What exists leaves little argument that female circumcision is truly physical mutilation. Male circumcision as a rite of passage is oft considered an allowable topic for adolescents, yet FMG is treated as taboo if ever introduced into conversation at all. I do not advocate that anyone judge this practice without much more information, and there is great controversy over whether or not it is culturally appropriate to judge it from our western vantage point. Adults can read and learn more from Waris Dirie's book Desert Flower. You can also investigate more deeply with a simple web search. The book, written with 10 year old protagonists, tells the tale of a profoundly complex issue in just the right way to begin the dialogue. I find it especially valuable for broaching this feminist, humanist, and public health issue for young adult readers. Highly recommended.
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