When author Terry Farish was working at the Portland Public Library, she befriended a young man from the Sudan who told her “there is no word” when asked about his favorite family meal. “My mother will cook it for you,” he said. Terry Farish joined his family for a meal and from that day, began a journey of listening. Her new friends in Portland’s Sudanese community told of their tumultuous path from South Sudan to Portland, Maine.
The cultural exploration that started as “there is no word” became a braiding of stories, experiences, and words which culminated in the award-winning novel, The Good Braider.
The Good Braider will be celebrated at the Portland Public Library in Monument Square on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 6:00 PM as part of city-wide read entitled “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland.” Bianca Abdalla, a local performer, will read aloud from The Good Braider, the author Terry Farish will talk about the development of the novel, and South Sudanese rapper OD Bonny will perform songs from his new CD, “Kwo I Lobo Tek.” The event will include a book signing and the sharing of East African refreshments from Asmara Restaurant. The event is free of charge. For more information, contact Curious City at 207-420-1126.
The free verse novel for teens and adults is told in the character’s Viola’s strikingly original first person voice. The narrative follows Viola’s dreams of South Sudan and her navigation of 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.
“As I built relationships with new friends in Portland from Sudan,” Terry Farish said, “I explained to elders that I wanted to write a book about the teens as they made their homes in Maine. The elders very much wanted this story to be told and shared their experience and struggles with me. I approached the work as documentarian, spending a lot of time with families and learning how they spent their days, about their art, the work of their hands, the music they love, the stories they tell. However, I used this research method to create a novel. The Good Braider is fiction and based on research and dozens of stories I recorded.”
Sudanese American rapper and performer OD Bonny was given a copy of the book prepublication and recognized Viola’s journey in The Good Braider as he and brothers also fled South Sudan as young men. In response to his reading, OD Bonny wrote and recorded the song “Girl from Juba” and is currently producing a music video for the song and book with local filmmaker Fred Ben. OD Bonny performs in a mixture of English and his native Acholi. His new CD “Kwo I Lobo Tek” translates as “Life is Hard in This World.” “The song is about the struggle that we are facing in this world,” says OD Bonny, “and what we can do to solve some of those issues.”