Thursday, March 19, 2009

Burn My Heart by Beverley Naidoo

Set in 1950’s Kenya, Naidoo tells a story of two boys. Mathew, the white landowner’s son and Mugo, a Kenyan boy who is their kitchen worker. They are friends, albeit not what one would ever consider to be real friends, colonialism had seen to that. Mathew, of course, is blissfully unaware of any inequities, while Mugo is quite aware of his place and role in the relationship.

The story takes place during the Mau Mau uprising, when native Kenyans tried to reclaim their land by force several decades after white settlers came and claimed the land as their own displacing the people who had lived there for generations. The Mau Mau uprising was bloody and violent. Violence stemming from both the whites in power upon suspected participants as well as Kenyans turning against fellow Kenyans who did not want to participate. 12,000-20,000 Kenyans died.

Naidoo carefully reveals the insidious and racist nature of colonialism. Telling the story from both boys’ perspectives really drives home how social constructs shape our reality. This is a powerful story and one that will resonate with its readers.

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