Then She Was Born is more than a novel. It’s an international human rights campaign supported by eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis. Based on an inconceivable reality for many in the world today, Then She Was Born combines the drama and redemption of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner with the spirituality of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
A child is born and the joy of her parents turns to horror. The child is different, in a way that will bring bad luck to their superstitious community. The tradition should be for her to be abandoned, but Nkamba, the grandmother, is allowed to care for her.
Naming her Adimu, Nkamba raises her as her own. Adimu is constantly marginalized and shunned by the community, although her spirit remains undiminished and full of faith. But when she encounters the wealthy British mine owner Charles Fielding and his wife Sarah, it is the beginning of something which will test them all.
As Charles Fielding’s fortunes wane, he turns in desperation to a witch doctor whose suggestion leaves him horrified. But as events begin to spiral out of control he succumbs to the suggestions and a group of men are sent on a terrible mission. The final acts, of one man driven by greed and another by power, will have a devastating effect on many lives.
Then She was Born
Translated from the Italian by Lori Hetherington
“Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili is a profound, thought-provoking novel that highlights the plight of albinos in Africa through the life of one such individual. The characters are brought to life on the pages, as is the physical and cultural environment and its impact on the people inhabiting it. The author could have preached about the terrible treatment inflicted upon albinos, but instead does a masterful job of ‘showing’ the reader through Adimu’s encounters with other villagers, with the gangs who hunt albinos for their supposed magical powers, and the relationships between black and white Africans, people who are united by a common culture while at the same time divided by race and class. Character motivations are also shown by their reactions to events; for instance, the shaman’s obsession with power as he puts his traditional beliefs up against the lure of Christianity, brought to Africa by the white missionaries, but carried on by local converts. At the same time, the way locals carry two belief systems and reconcile them in their daily lives, and the conflicts this causes, is highlighted. Throughout the book, the strength of the human spirit, and its ability to redeem is abundantly apparent.”
“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.”