Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Sandra Uwiringiyimana
Illustrator: Abigail Pesta
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Sandra and the rest of her tribe, the Banyamulenge, are outsiders everywhere they go. For Sandra, this means fleeing their home almost yearly to escape persecution and war. When Sandra was ten years old they fled the Congo to a refugee camp in Burundi. The camp was attacked and Sandra watched as her little sister, aunt, and mother were gunned down along with much of the camp. While she and most of her family escaped, Sandra carries the weight of her sister's death and the horror of the massacre with her. Her family is in shock and grieving for a long time. The massacre's survivors interview for a relocation program to go to America. When they get to America, they have difficulty with the language, finding employment and bridging the cultural divide. Here Sandra becomes an influential activist for human rights, women, and minorities.
The language of this book is unpretentious and simple. The authors let the facts of Sandra's life speak for themselves, only offering anecdotes near the end of the novel. Sandra's story is a call to action and is touching and inspiring. She shows how one person can make an enormous difference. There were a few inconsistencies in the narration. While Sandra is in a United States high school she feels frustrated by how she feels stereotyped because of her race. She then reminisces about how in Africa she was herself and not identified as a race. This seems like a large hole in the narrations since she was in a massacre that targeted her people because of their race. Its a leap to even compare that to being kicked out of a Banana Republic, much less to ignore it completely. As a whole, the simple narrative of Sandra's life is emotional and enlightening without trying too hard. The language is ideal for adolescent readers.
*Contains moderate violence.