- The Good Braider
It's 1999, and Viola, walking along a seemingly quiet road in war-torn southern Sudan, witnesses the senseless murder of a young man by a soldier who then rapes her. Such an event shames her family, so Viola her mother, and her younger brother make their way out of the country in a long process, which involves a UN airlift, miles of dangerous roads, and several years in Cairo (where her younger brother dies of dysentery) before they obtain the papers they need to get to Portland, Maine. Once in America, Viola and her mother must navigate the unfamiliar waters of American culture, a process fraught with trouble for Viola as she struggles with [End Page 15] what is clearly PTSD and her mother resorts to abuse in an attempt to restrict her daughter to traditional ways. Viola's narration, in spare ragged-right text, powerfully conveys the horrors of her experiences in Sudan and her confusion in her new home. While the first part of the book offers more situational drama, the second part offers a fascinating glimpse of the experience of contemporary refugees living in America. Throughout the novel, Viola is largely alone in making sense of her experiences, and her isolation is poignantly depicted. The extensive imagery and detailed language make this an excellent choice for a high-school readaloud as well as a strong offering for readers with an interest in global understanding and current events. An historical note is included.