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Girl Can Write. (enhanced)


Kek, a young Sudanese refugee, resettled alone, to Minneapolis:

All afternoon my belly aches.
Maybe I should have eaten more, I tell myself.

But I know the hurt of hunger well.
Hunger is a wild dog,

gnawing on a dry bone,

mad with impatience

but hoping still.


It isn't hunger I feel today.

This pain is worse,
one without pity
like an icy night.

This pain is a question,

the one my heart will not stop asking:

Why am I here,

when so many others are not?

Why should I have a desk

and a pair of fine jeans

and a soft place for my head to rest?

Why should I have the freedom to hope

while my brother and father

sleep in bloodied earth?


I should not take these gifts

I do not deserve.
And yet I know I will take them,

warm food
and soft bed

and fresh hope,

holding on tight

as that wild dog
to his bone.

An excerpt from Home of the Brave by my honey, Katherine Appl*gate.

Here's another:
The Story I Tell Hannah On The Way Home:

In our tent in the camp
a baby was dying.
Flies teased her eyes

and her arms hung

like broken sticks.

Her mother was

not much older than I am.

All day long she
whispered to the baby

drink, drink, drink.

All day, all night.

We couldn't sleep

for the sound of it.


But the baby had been hungry

for too long
and the bottle

went untouched
and after a while

the mother stopped rocking

and went silent.


When the baby died,

she covered her child

with a feed sack

and she said to no one,

I told her to eat.

Why wouldn't she eat?


When I'm done with the story,

I stare out of the window
at the sunless world.


Hannah stares at me.

This time, she's the one

who cannot find words.

And finally, about a cow who Kek names Gol, who reminds him of his father's herd:

By the time I'm over the fence,
Gol has spotted me.

She trudges over,

slow but determined,

like an old woman
longing for her grandchild's embrace.

When we reach each other,

I put my head on her neck.

You should be in the barn, I say.

I peer over her to see if Lou is outside.

The sky is rich with stars,

like fresh black dirt

sprinkled with tiny seeds.
The moon hangs low,

a cupped hand of silver water.

Enhanced with reviews and links:

Publishers Weekly:
. . .effectively uses free verse to capture a Sudanese refugee's impressions of America and his slow adjustment. After witnessing the murders of his father and brother, then getting separated from his mother in an African camp, Kek alone believes that his mother has somehow survived. The boy has traveled by “flying boat” to Minnesota in winter to live with relatives who fled earlier. An onslaught of new sensations greets Kek (“This cold is like claws on my skin,” he laments), and ordinary sights unexpectedly fill him with longing (a lone cow in a field reminds him of his father's herd; when he looks in his aunt's face, “I see my mother's eyes/ looking back at me”). Prefaced by an African proverb, each section of the book marks a stage in the narrator's assimilation, eloquently conveying how his initial confusion fades as survival skills improve and friendships take root. Kek endures a mixture of failures (he uses the clothes washer to clean dishes) and victories (he lands his first paying job), but one thing remains constant: his ardent desire to learn his mother's fate. Precise, highly accessible language evokes a wide range of emotions and simultaneously tells an initiation story. A memorable inside view of an outsider.

And check out these two great lit blogs:

Literary Safari and Phoenix Book Company Blog.

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“Girl Can Write. (enhanced)”

  1. Blogger amba Says:

    R.L Stine has just been outgoosebumped.

    How'd she do that? Read about it and . . . sheer imagination? Or did she actually know any of the Lost Boys? (My doc sis took care of one or more of them in Richmond, VA.)

  2. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Mostly she reads an awful lot. I'm guessing the cost of research exceeds the payment for the book. If I get a chance I'll drop off an autographed copy.

    She's gotten some very good reviews. Maybe I'll add a link to some, although others are firewalled.

  3. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    Wow. You ain't kiddin'.

    That's powerful, painfully beautiful writing.

  4. Blogger amba Says:

    Can you spell "Newbery Medal" . . .

  5. Anonymous literary safari Says:

    I interviewed Katherine at my blog and she said, "I was living in Minneapolis at the time, a city with which I had a definite love/hate thing going on (loved everything about it, except the brutal winters.) This was back in the late nineties, and the city was becoming home to a large immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa. There’d be stories in the news of these brave, amazingly resilient refugee families who’d come straight from refugee camps in Kenya, only to step off a plane into the depths of a Minneapolis winter. I kept wondering how a child from Sudan or Somalia would feel to be plunged into a world of strange customs and odd food and an utterly unfamiliar language. Would it be terrifying or thrilling? Isolating or liberating? .."

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