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The Good Braider

The Good Braider

4.5 2
by Terry Farish

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The Good Braider was selected as the 2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year and a book of Outstanding Merit.

In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola's strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family's journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close


The Good Braider was selected as the 2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year and a book of Outstanding Merit.

In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola's strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family's journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America—a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo, or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life. Terry Farish's haunting novel is not only a riveting story of escape and survival, but the universal tale of a young immigrant's struggle to build a life on the cusp of two cultures.

The author of The Good Braider has donated this book to the Worldreader program.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ellen Welty
The eloquent voice of teenager Viola, a Bari girl from Sudan, is captured perfectly in this free verse novel. Viola is forced to flee from her country with her mother and baby brother to escape the brutal civil war taking place there. They travel first to Cairo, to a refugee camp, before eventually arriving in Portland, Maine in the United States. Viola has endured rape, has witnessed the vicious shooting of a boy who was trying to save her, has experienced the death of her little brother and the loss of her grandmother, but nothing prepares her for the reaction of her mother when Viola makes friends with an American boy. Like all teenagers, Viola wants to fit in and be like her new friends, but her mother wants to maintain the traditional ways. Reminiscent of Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples, the fully realized characters and the story are completely captivating. While Viola's story is painful, readers will relate to her and sympathize with her struggle to go to school and work to help provide income for her family while trying to make a new life for herself in a country where the customs are so different from the customs of her people in Sudan. The book includes notes about the current political situation in Sudan and a brief history of the circumstances of the civil war. Very highly recommended. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
VOYA - Allison Hunter Hill
Viola is a South Sudanese teenager faced with fleeing the war-torn country she calls home with her mother and younger brother in hopes of immigrating to America. Tragedy strikes before her family even reaches Cairo, where they must stay for many months while waiting for their paperwork to go through. Once in America, Viola is suddenly faced with the completely foreign prospect of becoming an "American Teenager." Her mother's unyielding desire for Viola to remain faithfully Sudanese clashes violently with Viola's hunger to enjoy her newfound freedom. Viola must weave together the disparate pieces of both her past and her present before she can envision herself as a whole, both Sudanese and American, in the future. Farish's sparse free verse contains powerful, raw emotion and intense imagery. Viola's story is told with a delicate hand, but it never shies away from delving into the heartrending feelings of loss, displacement, and tragedy that mark the refugee and immigrant experience. Viola's narrative is also laced with hope, and underscored by her own sense of profound determination and strength. This is an honest account of modern refugee immigration, and it does contain both violence and an implied rape. Farish addresses these issues with a deft and mindful hand. The Good Braider is relevant, emotive, and arresting, and would be an exceptional addition to both school and public libraries. Reviewer: Allison Hunter Hill
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The Good Braider follows Viola on a journey from her home in ravaged Sudan to Cairo and finally to the folds of a Sudanese community in Maine. Viola's story, told in free verse, is difficult to read without a constant lurking sense of both dread and hope. In the opening scene she gazes at the curve of the back of a boy walking the street in front of her, only to view his senseless execution moments later. This tension never completely dissipates, though it takes on different forms throughout her story; by the end it is replaced not by the fear of execution or of the lecherous soldier who forces her to trade herself for her family's safety, but by the tension of walking the line between her mother's cultural expectations and the realities of her new country. Yet while Farish so lyrically and poignantly captures Viola's wrenching experience leaving her home, navigating the waiting game of refugee life, and acculturating into the United States, she's equally successful in teasing out sweet moments of friendship and universal teenage experiences. Viola's memorable, affecting voice will go far to help students step outside of their own experience and walk a mile in another's shoes.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

Product Details

Amazon Childrens Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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The Good Braider 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Rumor_Has_It More than 1 year ago
To date, this has to possibly be the hardest review I’ve had to type. The best books are not only those that transport you to a far, far away alternate universe. Although I love those books very much, every now and then I have to be reminded of the ones that keep you grounded enough to thank whatever entity you believe in that you haven’t had to go through what others go through in this world. The best books will always remain, at least for me, those that make you FEEL, THINK and WONDER. Not only while you are reading but hours, days, months later. Great books embed themselves into your DNA. This is that kind of book. I signed up for Netgalley and this was the first book I requested and received. I saw the cover and title and had to read the description. I read the description and knew I would like this story. I read the story and walked away in love. I cannot begin to describe how much I felt this book mine, knowing fully well that it couldn’t be because I’m 34 and no I haven’t had to live with a war right outside my front door. Yet I could still relate and many parts of this book could be my story. Perhaps it’s because some of my ancestors are from Africa. “For this moment, let’s be free, I say to them. They could not know the dance of the journey I am just beginning, but they dance with me always.” Perhaps it’s because when my mind wanders it too sways to the beat of drums and they too beat “Be Free”. Perhaps it’s because I know what it’s like to live in the United States and your elders desperately want to hold on to their history, culture and traditions while raising you in a very different world because “no one in America is from America” yet are. This entire book is written in free verse, a poem if you will. It flows and you are instantly transported to Sudan where you meet Viola, her mother, brother and grandmother. You walk the streets as she does in constant fear until she escapes her town and then follow her to the United States as a refugee. This book was written by a WHITE woman, Terry Farish, who became a part of the Sudanese community in Maine in order to give Viola the most accurate/beautiful voice I have read to date. She did her research and did it incredibly well. As I mentioned before a great book is one that will stay with you and it has been a month since I’ve read this book and stuck with me it has. As I also mentioned a great book will have you thinking and so this one has. One thought is this… Not too long ago we were raving about The Hunger Games movie and the trilogy. We continue to rave about dystopian novels similar to The Hunger Games. What we fail to recognize is that there are people in present day living these dystopian novels only hours away. Although Viola’s story is “fictional” it is very much real and we should make sure our children know this. With that said I’m gifting this book to every member in my family.
LiederMadchen More than 1 year ago
I don't usually read books written in free verse, but in this case it suits. The stark writing style only accentuated the emotions and brutality of the story. This is one of those books that leaves you kind of breathless at the end, as if you have witnessed something terrible and something beautiful. There are so many awful things that happen in this book, but there is also so much hope. I loved Viola, who is so strong despite the horrors she has lived through. Her courage was my favorite part of the book. America is so alien to her and her family, but she is determined to learn the new rules and excel in her new life. She manages it much better than her mother does, which leads to possible the most painful part of the novel. This book is beautifully written and utterly engrossing. Bittersweet and sad, it is sometimes difficult to read, but I couldn't stop.