Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Good Braider

I remember the day I first heard author Terry Farish read from her novel, The Good Braider. It was the section where the main character, Viola, a Sudanese refugee girl/rape survivor who has been relocated to Portland, Maine with her family, reflects on who she is now and what remains of her shattered, former self.

Terry's voice is gently haunting, and the section she read was particularly honest. We were sitting together at a long table, part of a YA panel at some book conference, and I couldn't help it: I started to cry. I wasn't a colleague in that moment, speaking "professionally" before an audience. Her words transformed me into another reader/listener, moved to tears by this powerful story.

A summary of the book: "In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola's strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family's journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America—a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo, or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life. Terry Farish's haunting novel is not only a riveting story of escape and survival, but the universal tale of a young immigrant's struggle to build a life on the cusp of two cultures."

The Good Braider received the Maine Literary Award and the Lupine Award.

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