Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away, by Christie Watson.
Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away, by Christie Watson. New York : Other Press, c2011.
A dramatic coming-of-age story about a girl forced to leave her home in Laos to live with her grandparents in rural Nigeria.
Blessed, the narrator of this novel, was twelve when her father left her family. She, her mother, and her older brother were forced to leave their comfortable home in Laos and live with her grandparents in a rural compound in Nigaria. At first, Blessed was shocked at the absence of electricity and running water and the totally different life style she must live. Crisis follows crisis, but Blessed slowly adapts. She becomes close to her grandmother as her mother and brother seem to become distant. Her grandmother slowly teaches Blessed the skills of the midwife and the girl’s low self-esteem gradually changes into pride her accomplishments. But the nearby oil company and local gangs remain very real dangers.
Christie Watson is an English novelist who is married to a Nigerian Muslim man. They live in London with their daughter. Watson packs extensive knowledge about Nigerians into her novel and addresses the very real problems that Nigerians face. Correctly she names the oil companies and governement corruption for the spreading violence in the region. While I had no reason to doubt her narrative, I found myself wondering how so many crises could exist for one family in the short time span of her book. I also wondered about the surprising success of the women’s protest. I felt Watson, as a white woman, did not bring me fully inside her story, but that may be my problem rather than hers.
Tiny Sunbirds is an action-filled book, capable of making readers think about lives unlike their own. The story is simply told, making it accessible for young adult readers. For me, however, other books by African authors do a better job of telling African stories.