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The Bite of the Mango

by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland

At the age of 12, Sierra Leoneon Mariatu Kamara suffered more trauma than most adults could endure. Shortly after being raped (and impregnated) by a family friend, Kamara was captured by rebels who cut off her hands. Despite her wounds, Kamara walked out of the bush and sought help. En route to the hospital in Freetown, she was reunited with many of her family members, several of whom had also lost their hands in the rebel attack. They moved to an amputee camp in the city, where Kamara gave birth to a son, who died at 10 months from malnutrition.

When foreign journalists interviewed Kamara in the camp, her story garnered international interest, including from a man in Canada who began sending aid to her. Through this and other assistance, Kamara was sent first to England, then Toronto, where she met journalist Susan McClelland (a past recipient of the Amnesty International Media Award), with whom she collaborated on this autobiography.

The Bite of the Mango testifies to Kamara’s horrific trauma, but with the aim of fostering hope and reconciliation. In a fitting gesture, former Sierra Leonean child soldier Ishmael Beah provides the introduction. While parts of the narrative are absolutely compelling, not to mention gut-wrenching, the latter half is less successful, suffering from knowledge gaps (how did the amputees learn to care for themselves?) and loose ends (did Kamara receive her Canadian prosthetics?). However, because the text bears witness to a conflict most young Canadians will know little about, it deserves thoughtful reading, though its necessarily graphic nature makes it best suited to mature readers.