As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry.
But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands. Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown.
As told to her by Mariatu, journalist Susan McClelland has written the heartbreaking true story of the brutal attack, its aftermath and Mariatu’s eventual arrival in Toronto where she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.
Relaying her experiences as a child in Sierra Leone during the 1990s, Kamara chillingly evokes the devastating effects of war. Mariatu is 11 when her tiny village is decimated by rebel soldiers, many of them children like her. Forced to watch as peaceful villagers are tortured and murdered, Mariatu is finally allowed to go free but only after boy soldiers cut off her hands: We want you to go to the president, they tell her, and show him what we did to you. You won t be able to vote for him now. Mariatu s long walk to get medical aid marks the first stage of a harrowing journey to build a new life for herself and other wartime victims; she now lives in Canada and is a UNICEF representative. Written with journalist McClelland, her story is deeply personal yet devoid of self-pity. As it aims to correct misperceptions about Sierra Leone and to raise awareness of the needs of child victims of war, this book will unsettle readers and then inspire them with the evidence of Mariatu s courage. Ages 14 up.