Then She Was Born
This is a story about an albino baby born in a Tanzanian village. Considered an evil omen, the father rejected both the child and his wife, and the disgraced mother then rejected the child. The child was to have been allowed to starve to death, but she was rescued by her grandmother through a clever ruse, and raised as a pariah within the village. The grandmother’s dark secret was that she too had given birth to an albino baby, which she had left to die. She determined to rescue this baby because of her feelings of guilt, and to give her all the survival skills she would need.
Albinos were called Zeru Zeru, and considered non–people and not even given names. The village held many superstitions around albinos that put her in mortal danger. Growing up, the child was rejected by the entire community, including the other children, and her pain is palpable.
The attitudes reflected in the book are, sadly, still prevalent today. The body parts of albino children are considered high magic and fetch vast sums of money on the black market. Although the novel is fiction, all of the experiences and characters described in the novel – from the shaman, to the chief of the village, and even to people you would consider is having a Western mentality – are still drawn into the hope and possibility of the magic of the albino child’s body parts to achieve their desperate desires.
The novel fulfills the dual purpose of raising awareness of the desperate plight of these children and also raising funds for a charity that helps them: www.helpAfricanalbinos.com. There are refuge villages that have been set up for these children supported by this charity, Help African Albinos.
The characters, swirling action, devious plots, conflicting emotions, and the whole hero’s journey of the child are beautifully realized and riveting.
The novel is absolutely “un-put-downable” and I read it until four in the morning.