Child of Dandelions by Shenaz Nanji 2008
IQ "It's just a house, she thought. It became a home only when it was filled with the love, trust and hopes of her family. Turtles carry their homes with them so they are always at home. I will carry my home with me." Sabine pg. 174
Child of Dandelions adds a much needed breath of fresh air to the historical fiction genre in depicting an even that is rarely covered. It tells the story of fifteen year old, Sabine a wealthy Indian Ugandan citizen living in 1972 during the rule of Pres. Idi Amin. On August 6, Amin announces that all foreign Indians must leave Uganda within 90 days or else. Sabine's father is confident that this rule only applies to non Ugandan citizens (like the British Indians) and Sabine agrees. Her mother, however, is worried for her family's safety. Sabine's world begins to change as Africans grow more upset with Indians, more and more Indians begin to leave, and her best friend, Zena, who is African grows distant. Also, Sabine's uncle Zulfiqar disappears. Finally, it is announced that all Indians must leave Uganda. Sabine and her family must decide if they are going to leave their home, where they successful and happy and start over in a new land or stay in Uganda and protect their home.
This was such an interesting event to read about. I'd heard of the expulsion of Indians from Uganda (there's a movie about Idi Amin called The Last King of Scotland, which I haven't seen), but I didn't know much about it or the reasons behind it. When Africa was first colonized by the British, the whites (wazungus) were the wealthiest and highest class, then Indians (wahindi), middle class (mostly traders) and Black Africans (wananchi) who were mostly poor. After the British left, the Indians becamse the wealthiest class, who helped grow Uganda's economy. Unrest heightened because Africans were upset that the minority group (Indians) controlled the majority group's (Black Africans) home. Amin took power in a military coup and decided to help Africans get their rightful land back by forcing all the Indians to leave. The book includes an afterword that explains in further detail. Reading about the tense relationship between Indians and Africans made for an engrossing read. In a way, the Africans were treated like slaves. Indians were not allowed to marry Africans and Africans who worked for Indian families could not use the same silverware or anything else that Indians used, Africans had to have their own set. There wasn't actual segregation laws, just unspoken ones. The author does an excellent job of describing Uganda. I could envision Little India, the homes that African laborers lived in, the wealthy homes that Indians lived in, etc.
I liked how each chapter of the book is divided into a day on the countdown. Chapter one is day one, etc. The chapters are short, but to the point and it's never tedious, all the chapter add to the plot. The reader sees the effects of this countdown and expulsion indirectly through the actions of other characters. The characters were genuine, but not all of them were fully developed. I would have to liked see more of the friendship between Zena and Sabine, it seemed a bit shaky to me, even though they claimed to be best friends, since Zena dropped her so easily. Adding in the romance between Sabine and Zena's brother, Ssekore helped the main character mature and show how the expulsion of Indians really affected relationships.However, we learn very little about Ssekore and his story cold have added a little more to the story. One of the most interesting parts was when Sabine hired detectives to find her uncle. Their methods are different from Western detectives and it was interesting watching them operate.
Child of Dandelions is an original, well done book about the 1972 expulsion of Indians from Uganda. The book talks about the beauty that Uganda was (the Pearl of Africa) and I highly recommend this book to all readers interested in Africa and India. It's not very graphic and the topic is so under represented it adds to every reader's world knowledge. 8th grade and up