Saturday, March 25, 2017

Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili

Genre: Adult, Realistic Fiction
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

When I was asked to review this book I told the author I could not guarantee them a date for the review as we were approaching our month of testing at school.  However, while on spring break something about the book kept drawing me to it. Out of all of the books I read over my break, this one to me is the most important. For that reason the review was bumped to the very front. I had a student four years ago who was an albino African American. I understood some of the physical issues she faced.  I had no idea of the history of African albinos until this book. Although this book is the fictional story of Adimu, an albino child born to a black couple, I had no idea of the stigmatism or superstitions that accompanied that birth. The child along with the  mother is rejected by her father. The mother rejects the child. The village demands she be taken to the forest to die.  The grandmother is given permission to raise the child if she survives not being trampled by the herd as they leave their pen. Her wise grandmother wraps her in a cloth soaked in the cattle urine. They step over her and the people decide the gods of the lake are allowing her to live.  At times I found myself angry with the way the grandmother treated her until I realized she was teaching her skills to survive any danger that arose long after she was gone. The fortunate meeting with the rich, white mine owner Mr. Fielding and his wife play a large part in her life. Unfortunately greed on Mr. Fielding’s part almost cost her the very life she has fought so hard to keep. 

I learned so much from this book and what I learned from researching afterwards. 1 in 20,000 people around the world are albinos. However, in Africa, 1  in 2,000 to 4,000 African’s are born with albinism. They are still sought after by witch doctors and people who want to get rich quick. They fear the night as that is when  their homes are broken into and they are viciously attacked with machetes where they are hacked apart while alive then left to die.  There are many arrests but few prosecutions.  There are many people who have tried to change old superstitions. Josephat Torner is one. I would not have been inspired to start researching about him if it had not been for the author of this book who sought me out. I would not be inspired to reach out and teach my students about this plight if not for this book. Mine is just one voice, but I proudly raise it along with others to bring this problem to the forefront.

Author Bio from Amazon:

Since his graduation, where he obtained a BA in political science, a MAs in humanitarian assistance and a PhD in social science, Cristiano’s work has taken him to some of the most challenging locations around the world, often dealing with the after effects of war and natural disasters. He currently works in Ukraine, in the hazardous border area with Russia.

In 2011, he went on a personal fact-finding trip to Tanzania, to assess the living conditions of Africans with albinism. From that experience his goal became to raise awareness of the living conditions of African albinos through the #HelpAfricanAlbinos campaign. His novel, Then She Was Born, is the English translation of his book, originally written in Italian.

Cristiano has met with eleven Nobel Peace Laureates, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis, who have each read a part of his novel and have leant their considerable support to the campaign.

In the case of Pope Francis, Cristiano was invited to an international symposium on Africa at the Vatican, to speak about Africans with albinism. He stayed in the Pope’s residence for four days and had a private meeting with him during that time. As a result, the #HelpAfricanAlbinos campaign is now endorsed by Pope Francis as an universal and interreligious message of peace and brotherhood.

Cristiano’s next target is to get celebrities to record video messages, just as the Nobel peace laureates and the Pope did, and spread them on social media to increase awareness of the living conditions of Africans with albinism, the last among all others.

The official campaign website is

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