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Memories of Sun: Stories of Africa and America

Memories of Sun: Stories of Africa and America

by Jane Kurtz

What is it like to grow up in different parts of Africa today?

And what's it like to be a child of two cultures — an American living in Africa, or an African living in America?

In South Africa visit the Bushman Farm, where a lonely girl meets a group of Bushmen who are making their living as a tourist attraction — and finds friendship


What is it like to grow up in different parts of Africa today?

And what's it like to be a child of two cultures — an American living in Africa, or an African living in America?

In South Africa visit the Bushman Farm, where a lonely girl meets a group of Bushmen who are making their living as a tourist attraction — and finds friendship and family as she's never known them before. In Tanzania join an American family on an unforgettable safari whose highlights include a broken car, a camp of armed men, heat, tsetse flies, and laughter. In Los Angeles be surprised by what happens when a teenage veteran from war in Sierra Leone comes into conflict with a local gang leader.

Jane Kurtz, who is herself a child of two cultures — Ethiopia and America — has gathered a remarkable collection of voices. These twelve stories and three poems sing of Africa, of America, and of people changing, growing, crying, and laughing under the same sun.

About the Author

Jane Kurtz was born in Portland, Oregon, but moved to Ethiopia when she was two years old and lived there for most of her childhood. She visited Boise, Idaho, for one year when she was seven, and she spent one year in Pasadena, California, when she was thirteen.

As an adult, she has spent time in several African countries but lives in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where she teaches part time in the English department at the University of North Dakota. She says, "My whole life has been shaped by that feeling of never being able to go home again. Luckily for me, my writing can transport me anyplace in the world."

Jane Kurtz is the author of both picturebooks and novels, and her titles include The Storyteller's Beads and Faraway Home.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Offering 15 unique perspectives of Americans, Africans and African-Americans, this collection of vibrant stories and poems celebrates the distinct flavors of the African continent. The first section, entitled "Africa," evokes the beauty of African traditions, landscapes and people. Nikki Grimes captures the magical aura of the Bagamoya seaport in a poem and in a short story reveals the gentle nature and sense of loss that characterizes the disappearing Bushmen tribes. The second section of the book focuses on Americans' first impressions of the continent, crystallizing moments of discovery, awe, confusion and regret. The protagonist of Maretha Maartens's "The Homecoming" feels out of place living in South Africa until a classmate invites him home and introduces him to his wise grandfather. In the story "Her Mother's Monkey" by Amy Bronwen Zemser, even though Francine's father is mostly unsuccessful at treating injured animals during their year-long stay in Africa, her mother forms a close bond with an orphaned baby monkey. While selections in the third and final section of the volume take place on American soil, the rhythm of African life is still strongly felt. Recent exiles such as 15-year-old Kulaja, a former soldier in the African jungle, and Ajang, who had been to missionary school in Kartoum and describes the alien American culture, struggle to assimilate to a new way of life while retaining a piece of their heritage; another child who has never set foot in Africa gets in touch with her roots through stories handed down by an aunt. Providing sharp, contrasting images of splendor and strife, these selections will reverberate in readers' minds. Ages 10-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The twelve stories and three poems in this anthology tell the stories of young people from both Africa and America. The narrators deal with change and are at a turning point in their lives. They all must face consequences, hardships, and above all, the truth about growing up. In Ella's Dune by Nikki Grimes, a teenage girl discovers the culture and wisdom that the Cape Kalahari Bushmen have to offer her and creates a lasting relationship with her estranged father. A young girl and her family take a safari to the Ruaha National Park, and endure heat, strong winds, a broken down car, and exhaustion until they realize what it means to be a family in Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen's What I Did on My Summer Safari. In Sonia Levitan's Lying Down with the Lion, a boy from the Sudan who has a gift for telling stories helps his new friend achieve a dream by showing his father that he is worthy of responsibility. The book is divided into three sections: Africa, Americans in Africa, and Africans in America. There is also a biographical section that includes notes from the authors. The authors go on to explain the inspiration behind their stories. Several authors will be unfamiliar to readers, but they all offer insight and thoughtful stories for teenage readers to peruse. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J S (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Amistad/HarperCollins, 160p., and PLB Ages 11 to 18.
—Jonatha Masters
Children's Literature
If we are truly "all African under the skin," as at least one population geneticist believes, then an anthology of contemporary short stories about Africa and America is a natural combination. Humans have been crossing physical and cultural borders between the two continents ever since a small group of people first walked out of Africa. So how do Africans living in the United States fare today? What do Americans experience when they return to their land of origin? Kurtz provides some answers with her choice of works by U.S. and by African authors. Her collection lets the reader understand what happens in "those interesting places where cultures meet" and people want desperately to belong. "I wove my blackness...into the red, the white and the blue which is the fabric of this nation." There are inviting adages: "Whoever said it was oh so right—Inconvenience is adventure, wrongly considered." Poetic words beat the rhythm of life: "On mats in the next room the men bow, submitting to Islam as the women submit to them and the family submits to the pattern of each day." One account tells of coming home at last: "And I know a country no longer far away but part of me." Kurtz' selections make unfamiliar landscapes and feelings available to any reader. This is a book for all who dare venture outside their own realm of experience. 2004, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, Ages 10 to 14.
—Francine Thomas
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-This nicely balanced collection explores the connections between Africa and the U.S. through portrayals of contemporary African life, Americans in Africa, and Africans in America. Each section of short stories is introduced by a poem. The authors range from well-known (Nikki Grimes, Angela Johnson, Sonia Levitin) to little-known voices from the U.S. and a variety of African countries north and south of the equator. Kurtz, author of a number of books about her childhood experiences in Ethiopia, has contributed one story. The balance extends to the tone of the stories as well, from the humor of a family trip in Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen's "What I Did on My Summer Safari" to the hopefulness of Elsa Marston's "Scenes in a Roman Theater" and Amy Bronwen Zemser's sad memories of "Her Mother's Monkey." Many of the selections explore the challenge of moving between cultures: Americans returning to African roots or living there briefly, Africans moving from rural to urban lives, and Africans coming to this country. In Uko Bendi Udo's "Soldiers of the Stone" and Mawi Asgedom's "My Brother's Heart," the protagonists find it difficult to apply the morals and manners of their previous experiences to their new surroundings. In Elana Bregin's "Ella's Dunes," a South African girl meets Bushmen trying to adapt to a world in which they can only be a tourist attraction. This is a consistently interesting anthology that will be particularly welcome in schools in which world geography and African studies are part of the curriculum.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This riveting collection of poems and short stories by award-winning African and African-American writers shares the complexities and surprises of living between two cultures and sometimes of one's own culture. At the heart of many entries is the search for identity and, in many cases, identity derives from where characters find themselves at the moment, such as "Ella's Dunes," in which a South African girl feels more at ease with the Bushmen she has just met. Although the collection represents various African cultures, including those of Tanzania, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Liberia, and Ethiopia, it also reveals the elements that unite all cultures-family struggles, coming of age, and the need to belong. These are best seen in "Soldiers of the Stone," in which recent California immigrant Kulaja, a former rebel soldier in Sierra Leone's civil war, shares much in common with Marco, a gang member originally from Mexico. Whether tender, adventurous, or heart-wrenching, these poems and stories stir readers to experience Africa-its pain and its beauty. (Poetry/short stories. 11-15)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Amy June Bates has illustrated many books for children, including Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull, The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest and You Can Do It! by Tony Dungy. She graduated from Brigham Young University and now lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children. Illustrating books has always been her dream.

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