I love hearing the stories of new Canadians. What brought them here, what they think of the country so far, how different it is, and so on. So, it's no surprise that I was drawn to Miriatu Kamara's The Bite of the Mango, the true story of a young refugee woman from Sierra Leone ended up in Toronto.
And while I say I love hearing the stories of new Canadians, I don't mean to suggest it's always a pleasant story to hear. The Bite of the Mango is quite gut-wrenching; angering and sad at times, hopeful at others. Miriatu, a 12 year old girl is left handless by rebel soldiers, and while being treated at the hospital, learns that she is pregnant, from a rape that took place prior to the rebel attack, by an older man from her village.
It would be impossible for a Canadian to read The Bite of the Mango emotionless. Even without the tragic story, the comparisons to village life in Sierra Leone would be astounding. She has had no education. She sees her first phone at age 12. She had never even heard the word snow. It's fascinating. It's heartwarming to know refugees like Mariatu have a safe home in Canada. It's also important to know their histories. As new Canadians, their histories are now a part of ours.
Despite the heavy topics, The Bite of the Mango is an easy read in terms of vocabulary, told mostly as if from the 12 year old's perspective-- even though Kamara is now 22. This lends the story the emotion in needs to adequately tell the story of her past. In one of the more poignant moments, right after Mariatu has her hands cut off by a boy soldier who tells her to go to the president to ask for new hands, she asks herself, "what is a president?"
Her story is told with the assistance of award winning journalist Susan McClelland.