Friday, June 26, 2009
Chanda's Secrets and Chanda's Wars by Allan Stratton
Chanda is a spirited teenager growing up poor in a small city in a fictional African country. She is very smart and loyal to her mother and her family.
The story opens with Chanda buying the coffin for her 1½ year old sister. Chanda’s good friend Esther no longer attends school, but earns a living doing odd jobs for tourists (hooking). It is only after a horrible attack and rape that Esther admits that this is the only way to earn money to buy back her siblings following her parents’ deaths. Then mama becomes sick. She leaves the family to go to her ancestral home. Chanda goes seeking her and finds her almost dead in an old cattle shed. As Chanda brings her mama home the neighborhood is faced with a dilemma. They all know it’s AIDS, but no one can voice that. Chanda is tired of the secrets, calls it what it is and celebrates her mother’s life.
There are more secrets for Chanda to keep or share, but through this she grows from a young girl to a young woman.
Chanda's Wars picks up right where the first book stopped.
Chanda again attempts to save her family – this time from an evil rebel leader who steals children, brands and brainwashes them to fight in his army while he kills families and loots villages. When Soly and Iris are stolen Chanda tracks the group cross country with Nelson’s (the boy her family wanted her to marry) reluctant help. Using a bees’ nest, a slingshot and the cover of darkness, they create enough confusion to rescue Soly, Iris and Nelson’s brother Paka, maim General Mandiki, and escape into the bush.
This story deals with the awful realities the children in Africa must face as they are thrown into the midst of civil wars. When Soly and Iris are taken, General Mandiki tells them that to return to their family would be certain death for them and their loved ones. He brands them with a hot iron on their chests and tells them that noone will trust them if they see his brand.
Parts of this story reminded me so much of A long Way Gone. It is a reality that I hope we never have to experience!!