Monday, March 6, 2017

Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili - An Outstanding Novel - And More

How can we, humans, be more beastly than wild beasts?
--Ramadani, Village Chief's Son


I fear you because you are different. 
I hunt you because I fear you. 
You are different, you are few, 
you are unearthly. 
Suspended between two worlds, 
you are out of my control, and, 
just like the gods, 
you may be our blackest disgrace
 or the gold of our fortune. 
And yet you cry and laugh as I do. 
Are you, or are you not, human?
This is what I want to know. 
But… who am I to ask?

More supporters can be seen on the Cristiano Gentili Page...

When I was asked to review this book, I had, of course, known of albino children, but I was not aware of why there was a campaign to spread the word about their need... I found a documentary which I decided to share, in case you, too, want to see and learn more... To a great extent, the novel follows what has been documented, but by personalizing it with specific characters, The author has presented characters to whom we are immediately drawn. I purchased the book. It was only 99 cents... I believe you need to read this book if you care about children...

The mother’s body broke open to make way for the baby’s entry into the world. Wild cries traveled beyond the sheet-metal door of the mud hut and into the crowded courtyard on Tanzania’s flat scrap of an island. 

Ukerewe was a jubilant explosion of greens— from apple to emerald— framed by the rich blue of Lake Victoria. Sefu— the father of the newborn— looked beyond the virile, though softening, sun. He considered the great bounty, the brawny progeny it had produced. That sun, too, would rest for the night. He imagined his son being born before the Spirits’ sun sunk into the vast water. He thought of how everything was as it should be. It was almost sunset, and the cool air soaked in reddish light from the day’s final rays. 

Soon, too, our golden crown will shine, our own sliver of the starry canopy, thought Sefu as he waited outside the hut. More time had passed and the sheet-metal door remained firmly shut. It was the beginning of the rainy season so the weather was unstable and capricious. Sefu smelled the unmistakable scent of rain. He sensed that the darkness of night’s first hours, assisted by monsoon winds, would coax heavy clusters of cloud that had been formed from the Indian Ocean. Water will be dumped onto the land by the rise of the next sun, he thought. 
At last, the door to the hut opened. A woman gestured to Sefu. He could now enter. The courtyard grew quiet. He crossed the threshold, and the smile he’d worn since hearing the child’s birth cries vanished. He saw his newborn asleep on a bundle of rags in the corner of the room. His eyes opened wide, and he grabbed his hair with both hands. This cannot be, he told himself. His body stiffened as the tiny creature hypnotized him. He attempted to summon his finger to touch its belly, hoping this thing before him was but a figment of his imagination. Then, with its subhuman powers, it turned him to stone. She was a curse, a judgment. He repeated to himself the name of what she was, denying it at the same time. The air in the hut was drenched in deadly silence. Only Sefu’s breathing could be heard, and its rasp increased as rage filled him. How could I have begot such a thing? he asked himself. He wondered if evil spirits possessed him while he had coupled with Juma. Or maybe this demonic being is the fruit of another man’s seed? That must be it, he affirmed to himself. His wife had to have betrayed him and unleashed a curse by the Spirits of the Lake. His body could not have made that. 
“It has to die,” declared Sefu. Without so much as a glance at Juma, the mother of the phantom, he turned and left the hut. 
Lying on her pallet, covered in brilliant-colored fabrics, her howls numbed by the murmurs of surrounding women, Juma registered this birth and her death were one and the same...

The child was rejected...first, by its father. And when her husband rejected Juma also, she could not stand to touch the child. The mother held her out to the Midwife. She would not touch her. Only the child's paternal grandmother came forth to claim the child, an albino, a curse, a ghost...A baby that would normally have been taken into the forest and left to die...

But even though Nkamba came forth to speak for the child, nobody would listen. finally she went before the chief and requested that the spirits of the lake be allowed to decide. She succeeded, but she also secretly acted to bring about the decision she was praying for. You see, she had once had a daughter who they'd taken away from her. She was going to make sure this child would live!

And for many years she did, even though the child was ignored by most villagers... Nkamba went to the Christian priest to beg assistance. The child had not yet been named. Again Nkamba succeeded and the child was called Adimu... Nkamba started immediately to guide her granddaughter toward secrecy and self-protection. She knew Adimu would some day have to care for herself since Nkamba was already old when she'd taken the child.

At one point Adimu came to meet the wife of the richest man in the area, Mr. Fielding. Sarah and Adimu immediately bonded and Sarah longed to have her as their child. Her husband refused, although even then at their first meeting, he was also drawn to the child... And then one village woman stole Adimu from NKamba's home and was planning to take her to the forest and leave the child, hoping to help the family get over the disgrace. Then she looked at the child and was drawn to her as well, and could not allow her to die. She took her to the Fielding's home, handing the child to Mr. Fielding, assuming that this white man was the father of the white child. But they brought the child back to her grandmother.

Nkamba had been given a telephone number of a place that albino children could be cared for and educated. She'd placed the number on the wall of her home, needing to keep it close. If she had known what was to come, she would have sent her away immediately, to keep her safe...

Because human traffickers, kidnappers, and criminals who worked for those that believed that Adimu was worth more dead than alive, were constantly searching and stealing these children. And Zuberi, the witch doctor of the village where Adimu lived was one of them... He would promise "parts" of an albino to cure various ailments of his clients and then send men out to fulfill his need. It was only because of the early agreement with the village chief that Adimu lived as long as she did...

And then a white man and a black woman came to Adimu saying they represented the school that had been contacted several years ago and wondered if they could still help... Nkimba and Adimu had immediately agreed and on the way to meet them, Nkimba had died and Adimu went home to bury her grandmother. She was put to work immediately by her father's first wife, doing all the washing for his family, but Adimu still stay at Nkimba's home at night...It was there that the same couple came and took Adimu away. And she meets for the first time, another smaller albino girl who was leaving her grandparents for this opportunity. But it was all a scam...

Danger, with thieves stealing from other thieves, abusive treatment, and more comes for the two children...They were taken to a place that had no other children, into buildings that had not been used for years, and they were locked in, finally, to prevent their escape. It had all been lies...

Adimu had been an intelligent little girl and the Fieldings had provided her with a set of encyclopedias and reading glasses to help Adimu be able to read... She would carry one of those books with her, no matter where she went and used every spare moment to gain more knowledge. She had promised her grandmother that she would someday become a doctor...

Now, after what had been done to her, what future did she have? 

I loved the way the author created his character, Adimu... But the Fieldings couple were unbelievable in presenting the pull between love, greed, and cultural superstitions... Kudos to the author for this outstanding character-driven drama! 

This book has a heartbreaking, but remarkable ending, as it does most times in fiction... I applaud the author, Cristiano Gentili and those supporting this campaign, to share the truth about how many albino children are being treated due to superstition and...greed! I highly recommend you consider this book not only because of the exceptional story but to support this effort! 


Cristiano Gentili is an author and a civil servant, from the Italian region of Tuscany. He is married and has a child.

Since his graduation, where he obtained a BA in political science, a MAs in humanitarian assistance and a PhD in social science, Cristiano’s work has taken him to some of the most challenging locations around the world, often dealing with the after effects of war and natural disasters. He currently works in Ukraine, in the hazardous border area with Russia.

In 2011, he went on a personal fact-finding trip to Tanzania, to assess the living conditions of Africans with albinism. From that experience his goal became to raise awareness of the living conditions of African albinos through the #HelpAfricanAlbinos campaign. His novel, Then She Was Born, is the English translation of his book, originally written in Italian.

Cristiano has met with eleven Nobel Peace Laureates, the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis, who have each read a part of his novel and have leant their considerable support to the campaign.

In the case of Pope Francis, Cristiano was invited to an international symposium on Africa at the Vatican, to speak about Africans with albinism. He stayed in the Pope’s residence for four days and had a private meeting with him during that time. As a result, the #HelpAfricanAlbinos campaign is now endorsed by Pope Francis as an universal and interreligious message of peace and brotherhood.

Cristiano’s next target is to get celebrities to record video messages, just as the Nobel peace laureates and the Pope did, and spread them on social media to increase awareness of the living conditions of Africans with albinism, the last among all others.

The official campaign website is

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