For Poni, life in her small village in southern Sudan is simple and complicated at the same time. But then the war comes and there is only one thing for Poni to do. Run. Run for her life. Driven by the sheer will to survive and the hope that she can somehow make it to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Poni sets out on a long, dusty trek across the east African countryside with thousands of refugees. In Kakuma she is almost overwhelmed by the misery that surrounds her. Poni realizes that she must leave the camp at any cost. Her destination is a compound in Nairobi. There, if she is lucky, she can continue her education and even one day convince authorities that she is worthy to go to the land of opportunity called America. Even more than the dramatic events of the story, it is Poni’s frank and single-minded personality that carries this novel. In a heartbreaking final twist, she finds her mother just as she is about to leave for the U.S., and must make the hardest decision of all.
About the Author
Leah Bassoff is a writer and teacher and a former assistant editor at Penguin. She lives in Denver. Laura DeLuca is an anthropology professor and has done extensive fieldwork in East Africa. She lives in Boulder, CO.
Read an Excerpt
Then, without warning, I am awake. I run out of the hut with my hands over my head as if they can somehow shield me from whatever it is falling down upon me. When I look up, the first thing I notice is the moon, fat as a cow’s belly, but what I see next are the planes and the bombs that are falling out of them. So many bombs. It is as though they are coming from everywhere at once, as though the sky is raining down black eggs.
The UN woman is coming to save me. Any day. Any hour.
I want this to be true. My eyes are always craning, waiting to spot the UN woman wandering through the camps. I look everywhere for pale skin and yellowy hair. My legs jiggle and itch with readiness. At night I hardly sleep. I promised the UN woman I would be ready to leave. And who knows? Perhaps she will fetch me during the night.
I picture the UN woman appearing and softly motioning for me to follow her. The two of us would glide out of camp together. She would usher me into an air-conditioned car and take me to the nun. I would thank her profusely, of course, shake her hand or maybe embrace her, if this is what white people prefer.
I wait and watch for her. I do this for a whole week.
Finally, I accept the truth.
She isn’t coming.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is such an important story! Written so beautifully from young Poni's perspective, the harsh realities of life in Africa mix with the incredible bravery and determination of a character that will truly touch your heart. As an educator, I have always felt that it was my duty to be internationally-minded. There is no better way to encourage this same aspiration in students then to have them read and analyze this wonderful story. Kudos to Leah Bassoff and Laura Deluca for bringing forth the voices of young women from South Sudan!