Annick Press|September 12, 2008|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 13:978-1-55451-158-7
The astounding story of one girl’s journey from war victim to UNICEF Special Representative.
As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry.
But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soliders, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands.
Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown.
In the gripping and heartbreaking true story, Mariatu shares with readers the details of the brutal attack, its aftermath and her eventual arrival in Toronto. There she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.
Mariatu Kamara, eleven-years-old lived with her aunt Marie, uncle Alie, and cousins in a small village in Sierra Leone called Magborou. There were only about 200 people living there. The eight houses in the village were made out of clay, with wood and tin roofs, and several families lived in each one. Magborou was an extremely poor village and none of the children attended school because their help was needed on the farms.
When Mariatu was seven-years-old she was big enough to carry plastic jugs of water and straw baskets filled with corn on her head. She spent her mornings planting and harvesting. They grew peanuts, rice, peppers, sweet potatoes, and cassava which is like a potato. During the afternoon, Mariatu would play hide-and-seek with her cousins and friends. At night she spent time dancing to the sound of drums and people singing. Once each week the whole village got together to watch as people put on performances.
Mariatu was eleven when the war came to Sierra Leone. The chariman of their village had heard that violent rebels were destroying villages and killing people in eastern Sierra Leone but were headed toward Magborou. The rebels wanted to overthrow the government which they accused of being corrupt and not helping people. The villages were hearing that the rebels weren’t just killing people but also torturing them.
The chairman of Magborou decided that the villagers should move to another village named Manarma in hopes of avoiding the rebels. He felt they would all be safer there and there were a lot more people in Manarma.
As they slept and woke in their new village they could hear gunshots in the distance. They were all quiet with no singing, dancing, or drum playing. Some of the elders ordered Mariatu and some others to walk back to their village of Magborou to retrieve some food from the supply bin. Mariatu was afraid and didn’t want to go but you didn’t disobey elders. She and some others set out together but they never reached Magborou. During their trek they had to pass through another village and as soon as they entered it they heard gunshots. About ten of them had left for Magborou from Manarma. The older men in the group decided they should wait until the gunfire ended before going any further. After awhile the men in the group decided to send Mariatu and another kid, Adamsay back to Manarma just to be safe. They began walking.
When they reached the outskirts of Manarma, they stopped near the soccer field. They couldn’t see or hear anybody which they thought was very unusual. Suddenly they saw soldiers of some sort who were bare-chested with bullets wrapped around their bodies. Adamsay was frightened and began to run away but a man came out of nowhere and caught her by the waist. He threw her down in the dust beside Mariatu. He had several guns slung over his shoulders. Another soldier came and they pushed the two kids into the village. Mariatu could now see that the soldiers had taken over the village going in and out of people’s houses, robbing them of people’s possessions. The soldiers ordered Mariatu and Adamsay to sit on the ground and tied their hands behind their backs. A few minutes later, a couple of the soliders took Mariatu into the bushes and cut off both her hands with a machete. What happened after this was truly horrible. An atrocity!
I give Mariatu a lot of credit for what she saw, what she endured and for having the courage to come forward and tell her story. The Bite of the Mango is a story of bravery, courage, resilience, strength, and of moving forward. I would highly recommend that everyone read this memoir.