One thought on “Golden Boy

  1. Holly Johnson says:

    Reading Golden Boy was a terrific experience, Marilyn! The character of Habo, a Tanzanian teen who flees for his life because of his albinism, came alive to me through this narrative. The reality that those in smaller villages saw him as both an anomaly—a zerozero—while at the same time as lucky for hunters and traditional medicine men (and thus, they want to kill him for his body parts) was pretty astounding. And while the premise of the plot sounds gruesome when I talk about it, the author did such a great job explaining how Habo could be both hunted and feared, that the story was fully realistic. The cultural nuances, the complex human drama, and then Habo’s growth as fully human, Tanzanian, and African was so well done. The story has really stayed with me, even though I finished it a few weeks ago. Part of that may be because when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, I had a student with albinism, where the bias against such a condition was not present, but he was somehow “other.” Thinking about that young man while reading this book made it more realistic, and Habo’s empowerment keeps readers from feeling overly sorry for Habo. Habo doesn’t need a reader’s pity; he is an inspiration, as is this book.
    What did you think about it, Marilyn?
    I agree this book is an inspiration. It haunts me. I keep thinking of Habo and the courage and strength he discovers in himself. I came on this book in an interesting way. I was visiting our grandchildren who live in Cohasset, MA. We decided to visit a local, independent bookstore , Buttonwood Books and Toys, which is close to their home to purchase some new books. I was amazed to see several authors there signing books. One of them was Susan Cooper! Another was Tara Sullivan, the author of Golden Boy. I had an interesting conversation with her and purchased the book for myself. On the plane ride home to Washington, I read the book. I was thrilled to have discovered the book and found it an engrossing read. Since then I have recommended it at several conferences. Recently, I heard a minister speak about the school his church sponsors in Tanzania and the plight of the albino in that area. It affirmed the stories in the book. I am especially pleased that Sullivan has listed nonprofit organizations working to help people with albinism to give readers a way to learn more about Habo’s story.
    One of the strengths of this book is the characters Sullivan creates. I especially like Kweli, the blind artist who offers Habo refuge in his home and helps Habo discover his own artistic abilities. Kweli guides Habo with such wisdom giving him opportunities to gain independence and confidence. Sullivan is skillful in keeping this story from being tragic with the interactions between Kweli and Habo and Kweli’s niece who Habo is attracted to. As the story unfolds Habo becomes more than his albinism as he experiences the usual development of a teenager. I am recommending that this book be a choice for students in a World Literature class I used to teach at our University. I am glad to see that it has won several awards.
    Your attention to Kweli is well noted! What I loved was how he was able to lead Habo into seeing Habo as African, not albino, and that could be done because Kweli was able to “see” beyond the visual marker where most others got stuck when looking at Habo. I agree that this would make a great addition to a World Literature Class, and find the book makes a great addition to any theme set that addresses survival and bias. It was an exciting story in which readers can experience the danger of Habo’s existence because of people’s bias. It shouldn’t be lost on us that this bias is very similar to our country’s treatment of those who fall outside the dominant mainstream because of their skin color.
    I agree this book would spark a discussion on how we treat others who are different than us.

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