Description: Follows Viola as she survives brutality in war-torn Sudan, makes a perilous journey, lives as a refugee in Egypt, and finally reaches Portland, Maine, where her quest for freedom and security is hampered by memories of past horrors and the traditions her mother and other Sudanese adults hold dear. Includes historical facts and a map of Sudan.
Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
Info: ISBN 9780761462675, Hardcover $17.99, eBook $10.99
Setting: South Sudan, Portland, ME
Featured Community: Sudanese American
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Song by OD Bonny Inspired the Book
Reviews & Accolades
SLJ Best Book of the Year
American Library Association YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
Winner of the Lupine Award from the Maine Library Association
“From Sudan to Maine, in free verse…After such a journey, the culture shock in Portland is unsurprisingly overwhelming…Viola tries to become an American girl, with some help from her Sudanese friends, a nice American boy and the requisite excellent teacher. But her mother, like the rest of the Sudanese elders, wants to run her home as if she were back in Juba, and the inevitable conflict is heartbreaking. Refreshing and moving: avoids easy answers and saviors from the outside. ” —Kirkus Reviews
“…has the potential for creating empathy in the hearts of students who cannot begin to comprehend some of the reasons their classmates may have left their home countries. This book can be an important vehicle in building cultural awareness and sensitivity.” –Jodeanne Kruse, ENGAGE, International Reading Association
“…Her characters are real people and their story is quite affecting. In the same way that Keji artistically weaves the braids, Farish weaves the words.” —Edi Campbell , Crazy QuiltEdi
“This is a story of courage – not just Viola’s, but of all immigrants…Without her [Farish’s] advocacy, would these characters have a voice? Maybe. But, with her, they have a very certain voice, and the larger community needs these stories.”
“If you want to know how [people from Sudan] got here, read the news accounts. If you want to know how it feels to move from a violent, war-torn country to a community that fights over where to put a Walmart, then read The Good Braider. Terry Farish’s new novel, composed in daring and lyrical free verse, opens a window into the life of one Sudanese schoolgirl, and in the shadows of her fictionalized life, reveals the true and real horrors that the Sudanese people endured.” –The New Hampshire Weekly
Terry Farish’s involvement with the Sudanese community began at the Reiche Branch Library in Portland, Maine, where she worked in 2001. She worked with families from countries around the world including children and teens from Sudan. She remembers talking with one boy from Sudan and asking him about the food that he ate and instead of trying to describe it, he invited her over for dinner where his mother could cook for her and she could experience it for herself.
Farish originally started out researching and writing a non-fiction book about Sudanese teens in the U.S. but after many years of writing nonfiction, she turned to fiction, after beginning to write scenes in verse. After talking to people in the Sudanese community, she saw that the parents worried about their children who became Americanized quickly while the parents wanted them to keep their cultural identity.
Farish researched the history of Sudan and neighboring countries, including the impact of colonialism. She also researched the civil war that was taking place in Sudan. Some of her sources included The Shadow of the Sun, The White Bone, Me Against My Brother, and Voices of the African Ancestors. For more resources, see Farish’s The Good Braider blog under Researching South Sudan.
To understand the Sudanese culture, Farish turned to the Sudanese community in Maine. It was in their living rooms and kitchens where she collected oral histories of the families. She saw the expectations a family has for the daughters, and the power of the mother in the family – all of which helped her create the mother-daughter relationship between her character Viola and her mother. She witnessed the ritual of braiding and learned the significance of the braids to the girl as part of her identity and culture. She also used specific details that were real for many Maine immigrants, such as the experience of going to an ESL class and working at Barber Foods in Portland.
Suggested Supplemental Reading
From I Remember Warm Rain:
“The Photograph” by Aruna Kenyi
“A Day in Three Worlds” by Hassan Jeylani
“Travels” by Ridwan Hassan
“The Journey” by Jackson Benjamin
From New Mainers:
Khadija Glued, Somalia
Mary Otto, Sudan
Jaden Li Eung, Cambodia
Jelilat Oyettunji, Nigeria