Even though they were born in different countries, Akilah and Victoria are true best friends. But Victoria has been acting strange ever since she returned from her summer in Nigeria, where she had a special coming-of-age ceremony. Why does proud Victoria, named for a queen, slouch at her desk and answer the teacher's questions in a whisper? And why won't she laugh with Akilah anymore?
Akilah's name means "intelligent," and she is determined to find out what's wrong, no matter how much detective work she has to do. But when she learns the terrible secret Victoria is hiding, she suddenly has even more questions. The only problem is, they might not be the kind that have answers.
In this groundbreaking novel, Coretta Scott King Honor winner Rita Williams-Garcia uses her vividly realistic voice to explore an often taboo practice that affects millions of girls around the world every year. Readers will identify with headstrong, outspoken Akilah, whose struggle to understand what's happened to Victoria reveals a painful truth in an honest and accessible way....Continua
What a powerful book. I thought the age of the characters might make the book less interesting to HS students, however, the issues are definately young adult and adult. I can't wait to hear what other readers think of this novel. I think it would be a great one for a book discussion.The author uses or maybe creates a great word--"shero" when refering to a female hero. I had never heard that before and thought it was great!Quotesp. 38 [before Akilah finds out what has happened to Victoria]She [Victoria] stopped right there, pushed her finger in my chest, and said like she was a crossing guard, "No laughter.""What?" [said Akilah]She [Victoria] said, "You can't make me laugh. No one can. So do not try."Why did she have to dare me? Daring me was like waving a red cape at a bull. I knew exacly how to make her laugh. I reached to tickle the sensitive skin under her chin to prove it. She slapped my hand away, hard.I slapped her back. Harder.We just stood there, eye to eye, neither one of us speaking or blinking. Then she walked away.p. 70-73 [Victoria's experience]"They took it while I was sleeping." [said Victoria]"Took it?" [asked Akilah] She made no sense."My mother. My Auntie Omodara and Auntie Olefemi. My Grandmother Iyapo. They took me to see Doctor Ajala. I thought for more shots or to look at my teeth."First my mother inspected Doctor Ajala's knife, and then she told him to put me to sleep first. My aunties started yelling at my mother. They said things like, 'Do you think we will fail to hold her down?' My grandmother said she could have done it at home without so much fuss. She had done many girls, but my mother was very strong. 'We are modern,' she said. Then the doctor told everyone to be quiet. He could lose his license because it was illegal.""Illegal?""Illegal. When he said illegal, my mind imagined the worst. I thought, How could my mother make us do something so horrible the doctor could lose his license? I could not imagine what it was. I was not sick. I did not need to see a doctor."But my aunties and grandmother would not stop yelling at her and at Doctor Ajala."My mother remained strong. She wouldn't give in to her sisters or her mother. She said things I was not accustomed to hearing her say. Do not ask me to repeat them.""She read my mind so well."Then the doctor put me to sleep.""To sleep?""While he operated.""Operated?" Now I sounded like Victoria had when she first returned. Repeating and questioning. My mind raced with horror and curiosity, and yet I made no pictures for what she was telling me. It was as though the picture-making part of my brain had shut down."When I woke up, I thought I was dead inside my body. I could see, but I could not move. Then feeling came back to me slowly, not on the inside, but outside of my body. Like I was a ghost, visiting Grandmother Iyapo's house. Sound around me did not seem real. I heard music, but it seemed far away, like echoes. I heard laughter and talking, but it didn't seem real."I still did not know what had happened to me. I did not remember coming back to Grandmother's house. I called for my mother. She helped me to the bathroom. I could barely stand She had to hold me when I squatted. My ghost body fled, and my real body returned. When the pee came out of me, I screamed. I was being burned alive, but there were no flames creeping up my legs. For weeks and weeks I stood in a pot of fire.""Fire?" I slowly began to feel, although I still couldn't picture anything. Only knife, took, fire.She knew this and siad, "Have you ever played Touch My Raisin?"I nodded."And it felt good and tickly when you touched it?"Only to Victoria could I admit this. "Umhm," I said."So good you didn't want to stop?"I nodded again.She pointed between her legs to what I call private place, the Paths to Discovery video calls genitals, and kids on the playground have nasty names for. She said, "When I was sleeping, they took my raisin."My belly flopped. I felt dizzy. I didn't expect to hear what she told me."Mum said not to cry. All proper Nigerian girls have this done to stop the feeling.""Stop the feeling?"She said, "The feeling that comes from touching your raisin. I still cry.""That's okay."Victoria whispered, "When we returned home, you know to Queens?"I nodded."I locked myself in my room and got my mirror to squat over it and see. Akilah, after they took my raisin, they sewed my skin together to hide what they did."This passage was so powerful to me. I can't imagine being 10 and having to explain that. I am still disturbed by the idea of female circumcision....Continua