Golden Boy

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“Harrowing but ultimately redemptive…the murder of Tanzania's albinos is a real and horrific phenomenon of the past 15 years, a cold fact that makes the fictional events in ‘Golden Boy’ more moving and consequential than those in any dystopian young-adult chase-drama.”
The Wall Street Journal

*"A riveting snapshot of one Tanzanian boy who makes himself matter."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

*“Readers will be haunted by Habo’s voice as he ...

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Golden Boy

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“Harrowing but ultimately redemptive…the murder of Tanzania's albinos is a real and horrific phenomenon of the past 15 years, a cold fact that makes the fictional events in ‘Golden Boy’ more moving and consequential than those in any dystopian young-adult chase-drama.”
The Wall Street Journal

*"A riveting snapshot of one Tanzanian boy who makes himself matter."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

*“Readers will be haunted by Habo’s voice as he seeks a place of dignity and respect in society. An important and affecting story.”
School Library Journal, starred review

Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different—light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can't take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame. 

Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt Albinos in Mwanza because Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To survive, Habo must not only run, but find a way to love and accept himself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sullivan's standout debut spotlights the quest of 13-year-old Habo, an albino ("zeruzeru") struggling to survive in Tanzania, where albinos are both reviled and prized; some even believe that their limbs possess magic and are willing to kill for them. The narrative begins in the small village of Arusha, where Habo, his mother, and siblings are starving. The family decides to immigrate to the city of Mwanza, in hopes of finding stability. In raw, candid prose, Sullivan conveys Habo's learned shame and the violence that his family encounters as a result of their poverty and perceived difference. Habo's sense of liberation is almost palpable when an elderly, blind sculptor trains him as an apprentice and begins to show him the meaning of unconditional love. Weaving in Kiswahili words and phrases, Sullivan presents a nuanced view of Tanzanian culture and its entangled economic circumstances, while writing vividly of the country's landscape. Though the novel is horrifying in parts, Habo's tender interactions with those he loves combat the sense of lurking dread that, most often, takes human form. Ages 12–up. Agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (June)
The Wall Street Journal
“Harrowing but ultimately redemptive…the murder of Tanzania's albinos is a real and horrific phenomenon of the past 15 years, a cold fact that makes the fictional events in ‘Golden Boy’ more moving and consequential than those in any dystopian young-adult chase-drama.” –The Wall Street Journal
Kristin Levine
"Golden Boy is an amazing story of prejudice, bravery and acceptance. From the very first page, I was captivated by Habo and his struggle to find his place in the world."—Kristin Levine, critically acclaimed author of The Lions of Little Rock and The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
Eliot Schrefer
"A commandingly written debut, Golden Boy is a moving, gorgeous account of what it means to feel profoundly different when the stakes are survival itself."—Eliot Schrefer, author of National Book Award Finalist Endangered
"Readers will be caught by the contemporary story of prejudice, both unspoken and violent, as tension builds to the climax."—Booklist
VOYA - Stephanie Wilkes
Habo is a young albino boy growing up in a small Tanzanian village, where his differences not only separate him from the rest of the community, but also cause trouble for him and his family. In his remote village, albinos are murdered for their body parts—considered lucky by different African tribes—and Habo is forced to make the difficult decision to leave his family behind, fleeing to Dar Es Salaam, where he feels he may find a better life and keep his family out of harm's way. Through Habo's journey, different parts of African culture are examined, and awareness is raised, not only of such issues as ivory poaching, but also such lesser known issues as the high murder rate of albinos in Tanzania, a city that has the largest albino population in the world. Habo's powerful narrative describing life when you just do not fit in pairs nicely with the wisdom of a blind elder in Dar Es Salaam to create a moving novel that explores finding the worth of an individual as they see themselves, not as the world sees them. The book finishes nicely with a glossary of African terms and resources to further explore albinism in Africa. Readers who enjoyed Eliot Schrefer's Endangered (Scholastic, 2012/Voya December 2012) and Michael Williams's Now Is The Time For Running (Little, Brown, 2011/Voya June 2011) will appreciate this addition to multicultural young adult fiction. Reviewer: Stephanie Wilkes
Children's Literature - Debra Lampert-Rudman
Author Tara Sullivan researched Golden Boy by traveling to Tanzania and interviewing those working to rescue and educate Tanzanian people with albinism. She brings a sensitivity and knowledge to her debut novel, Golden Boy. Thirteen-year-old Habo is a light eyed, yellow haired, white skinned albino boy who is shunned in his home of Tanzania. His father leaves, his family is forced to move, and over time he is forced to flee from his family and all he knows to save his own life. Apparently, albino body parts are sought in the black market. This remarkable and deeply disturbing story has a ray of hope in Habo's determination to survive. The author's note at the back of the book informs the reader that although it is a work of fiction, the elements in it are true. She provides a glossary of Kiswahili words and phrases, and lists resources about ivory poaching, albinism, and nonprofit organizations working in Africa at the book's end; there is much potential for classroom discussions. Reviewer: Debra Lampert-Rudman
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Habo, 13, knows that his albinism makes him a zeruzeru, less than a person. His skin burns easily, and his poor eyesight makes school almost impossible. People shun or mock him. Unable to accept his son's white skin and yellow hair, his father abandoned the family, and they cannot manage their drought-ravaged farm in a small Tanzanian village. Habo and his mother, sister, and brother travel across the Serengeti to seek refuge with his aunt's family in Mwanza. Along the way, they hitch a ride with an ivory poacher, Alasiri, who kills elephants without remorse for the money the tusks bring. In Mwanza, the family learns that one commodity can fetch even higher prices: a zeruzeru. Rich people will pay handsomely for albino body parts, and Alasiri plans to make his fortune. Habo must flee to Dar es Salaam before he is killed. After a harrowing escape, he reaches the city and miraculously encounters a person to whom his appearance makes no difference: a blind woodcarver named Kweli. Slowly Habo develops a sense of self-worth as well as carving skills. When Alasiri brings ivory for Kweli to carve, the boy and old man work with the police to send the hunter to prison. Habo's gripping account propels readers along. His narrative reveals his despair, anger, and bewilderment, but there are humorous moments, too. Although fortuitous encounters and repeated escapes may seem unlikely, the truth underlying the novel is even more unbelievable. In Tanzania, people with albinism have been maimed and killed for their body parts, thought to bring good luck. Readers will be haunted by Habo's voice as he seeks a place of dignity and respect in society. An important and affecting story.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Kirkus Reviews
Some call Habo a zeruzeru—a zero-zero—nothing. Others willingly pursue the riches his albino body parts will bring on the black market in Sullivan's intense debut. With his white skin, shaky, blue, unfocused eyes and yellow hair, 13-year-old Habo fits nowhere in his chocolate-brown Tanzanian family—not with his brothers who shun him, nor even with his mother, who avoids his touch. Did this bad-luck child even cause his father to abandon him at his birth? Only Habo's sister, Asu, protects and nurtures him. Poverty forces the family from their rural home near Arusha to Mwanza, hundreds of miles away, to stay with relatives. After their bus fare runs out, they hitch a ride across the Serengeti with an ivory poacher who sees opportunity in Habo. Forced to flee for his life, the boy eventually becomes an apprentice to Kweli, a wise, blind carver in urban Dar es Salaam. The stark contrasts Habo experiences on his physical journey to safety and his emotional journey to self-awareness bring his growth into sharp relief while informing readers of a social ill still prevalent in East Africa. Thankfully for readers as well as Habo, the blind man's appreciation challenges Habo to prove that he is worth more alive than dead. His present-tense narration is keenly perceptive and eschews self-pity. A riveting fictional snapshot of one Tanzanian boy who makes himself matter. (Fiction. 12-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399161124
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 6/27/2013
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 259,521
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Tara Sullivan ( lives in Malden, Massachusetts. This is her first novel.

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