I must be on a cover kick, but the irony of the cover of The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland is perhaps too obvious, but startling nonetheless. I am always on the lookout for interesting nonfiction works and I found a great one in The Bite of the Mango. Mariatu was living her life in Sierra Leone during the civil war in that country that raged for most of her life, certainly all of her young life. Her family was poor, like most of the country and living in a small rural village. She made her life with her aunt and uncle in a custom that appears (at least in the book) to be very common – many family members would live away from their biological parents to be raised by other family members. So while Mariatu’s parents were both living, she made her life with her aunt and uncle and was close to many members of her extended family. Often, there were reports that the rebels were coming to the village and everyone would leave to live in the woods and wait until it was safe to return. Sometimes this lasted as long as a month or more. As time went on, the mayor of Mariatu’s village decided it was too unsafe staying in such a small village and everyone was to move to a larger one, in the hopes of safety from the rebels.
This proved to be a turning point in Mariatu’s life as well as those of her close relatives and friends. Rather than finding safety in the larger village, the rebels attacked it and killed many women, men and children, and tortured others that were left alive. Mariatu was one who was captured and before her release, she had both of her hands chopped off. Yes, BOTH of her hands. She then wandered looking for help before she was taken by 2 women to a town with medicine that saved her life. As horrific as this was, Mariatu wasn’t alone. Many, many others had both hands cut off, and she meets them in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. There she learns to adjust to life without hands, and struggles to process her new life and what will become of it.
The Bite of the Mango is an incredible story of one young woman who has the same hopes and dreams as any girl you know, and how she was able to find a way toward living those dreams.
Recommended for 8th grade and up based on mature content including rape and torture.