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It’s rare to meet someone whose story captivates and inspires so deeply; Maria Nhambu is such a person. During her intensely troubled upbringing, Nhambu overcame more trials than most will ever experience and she fought valiantly for her education and eventually became a teacher. She is a gripping speaker, delivering messages that resonate with many problems unfolding in our culture today: a fear of people and cultures different from our own, a decline in empathy, and the tendency to turn a blind eye to those in need.
Her story resonated because my work as a coach supports clients to uncover limiting beliefs; she challenged her own beliefs and never allowed herself to be limited! As a Rotarian, Maria’s journey is like so many that we serve in developing countries; her story brought the mission of Rotary to life. Nhambu’s message will touch your heart and challenge you to rethink your beliefs and discover new depths of understanding. — Irene M. Kelly, NCC, PCC, CVI™, Leadership & Academic Coach, Rotary District 5950, District Governor Nominee
“Maria. I just met a girl named Maria….”
Those lyrics from West Side Story were so intense when I finished reading Maria Nhambu’s Africa’s Child, I sang them aloud and then found lyrics to the entire song online.
Several times I needed to set this profoundly personal memoir aside for a day because of related incidents in my own life that left indelible impressions. Undoubtedly this will happen to all readers of this finely woven portrait. Memories refuse to be stored in cocoons permanently; they have to morph into flight and wing around occasionally.
With only a sprinkling of words, Maria exquisitely describes her natural environment, something that enchanted me, since my mind’s eye felt gifted. She has the rare ability to, with language, let our imaginations join hers and feel what she feels, and see what she sees. On page 17 for instance, this view took my breath away, so I read, and re-read it several times: Hand dug irrigation canals lined with blue and white chrysanthemums and calla lilies wound their way up from a river in the valley through the terraces, and disappeared into the horizon.
I felt very sad about Maria’s assaults by priests who think that “pray” is spelled “prey” and are knee deep in misogyny and pedophilia. Curses! Maria is among the brave who are telling the truth about this hypocrisy and betrayal.
It was a relief to know that Fat Mary managed to prevent Maria from lapsing into psychosis. The strength, courage, intelligence, wisdom and candor. I have Post it Note reminders on my calendar to watch for the next two volumes. —Jane E. Lang
Africa’s Child is a remarkable first book by a gifted writer whose style would do equal justice to works of fiction. This book, the first in an autobiographical trilogy, is not; it is painful personal accounting of a young girl’s very difficult journey through a time when Africa was struggling for identity, independence and survival. Such was also Maria Nhambu’s personal quest as a child stuck in the middle, accepted by neither the ruling white elite, nor their African subjects.
Hers is not only a story of immeasurable pain and sadness, but also of a relentless pursuit of education as key to survival and happiness. The first book was difficult to put down until the final line of the last chapter; the next two books promise to be even more riveting, interesting and surprising.
Kenneth Gilmore, the late Editor in Chief of Readers Digest said of Nhambu’s life story that he had spent a career looking for stories like hers, but usually felt they needed a little added excitement to make them interesting. In Nhambu’s case, he said she probably needed to delete some of the real-life events to make it credible! Africa’s Child is worth all Five Stars. —Kjell Bergh, Consul (Ret.) United Republic of Tanzania
I loved the Africa’s Child and couldn’t put it down. Nhambu has done a remarkable job of recreating the orphan experience in such a way that I truly felt I was there with little Mary and could see the world through her eyes. It was powerful, moving, beautifully written and it gave me a much better sense of what a child can endure and come out of it with strength and grace and the perseverance to move on. —Margo Hinnenkamp, Co-Founder, Traveling Goddesses, Transformational Travel for Women
Africa’s Child is a captivating and exhilarating read, alternately heartrending and inspiring. Told through the eyes of a keenly perceptive and precocious child coming of age in colonial East Africa, Nhambu’s intensely penetrating insights into complex race, gender, and power relations forge a uniquely personal story that leaves the reader yearning for more. —Natasha C. Vaubel, Scholar of African history, literature and film. Former Associate Professor of Comparative Culture, Aichi University, Japan
Africa’s Child is compelling not only because of its vivid picture of Nhambu’s experience, but because her story is shared by millions of children who are left behind, forgotten, and unwanted today, not just in Africa but in the United States and all around the world. Her story of resilience and faith will bring hope to them. —Marian Wright Edelman, Director, Children’s Defense Fund
A personal memoir unfolds in Eastern Africa with a young, bright, vulnerable girl as its central character — a little girl marginalized at birth by the sting of abandonment and mixed-race, barely existing in the shadows of a Catholic orphanage. In this layered coming-of-age autobiography, first- time author Maria Nhambu nimbly escorts us through her childhood years with intelligence, humor, self-analysis and compassion; in a style that is pitch perfect, Nhambu offers vivid instances of the dynamic forces, both from within and without, that have shaped her destiny. Yet all is not lost. From the bleak circumstances of her formative years, an evolving woman of substance and beauty emerges — one who embarks on an intellectual and emotional journey of a lifetime. —Mitchell Dasher II, President, Kappa Upsilon Charitable Foundation, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
I’ve known Maria Nhambu since 1976 when she came to teach at Central High School where I was principal. With my encouragement, she created and taught an African Studies program. Now, reading Africa’s Child, I understand how much of Africa she brought to her students. Her story is intimately tied to Africa’s story, America’s story and history. An invaluable book for anyone passionate about Africa and the human condition. —Joyce Taborn Jackson, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
Africa’s Child is a profound coming of age memoir by Maria Nhambu. I describe it as a coming of age story because as she was growing up, Africa and the world were beginning to re-evaluate the role of the Colonialists. As she came of age, her country did become independent.
The story is authentic, raw, and personal. She does not hold back on what was done to children; good and bad in the name of the Church. The book grabbed me from the first page with the riveting telling of her being dropped off at the orphanage. I spent many sleepless nights as I tried to process all that occurred to her through the eyes of a child. She inhabited two worlds, the world of a journalist and the world of a child. She kept both personas together consistently throughout the narrative. It couldn’t have been easy. It is a story of cultural and religious definitions. Who defines who we are? It’s one of the few books that I have read that questions the way black people treat one another, all the remnants of Colonialism. The control of one people over another has tremendous and long lasting implications.
It is one of the few books written from the African’s perspective; some authors do come to mind, but none from a child’s perspective. We all remember bits and pieces of our childhoods, but she and her remarkable memory put us right there with her time after time; page after page. Her inquiring mind, her inquisitive nature, and fierce belief in herself is what saved her. It is the story of hope and perseverance.She had a profound need to know her identify, don’t we all? It’s the story of fear and doubt that resonates among children everywhere, made more profound because she was an orphan. This is a must read for everyone who has struggled for their own identities. This story of triumph cannot end here; we await the second book in this trilogy with bated breath! —Rosalind Murray, former President of National Organization for Women (South Palm Beach Chapter), Former President of National Coalition of 100 Black Women (Palm Beach Chapter)
Nhambu is an amazing woman with a graceful power that emanates from her. Her story is inspirational and motivational. She grew up with some of the harshest experiences, yet she was able to weave a gold thread of life, love, faith, and freedom through every experience she endured. She held to her own light and truth even though she was often in a sea of darkness. —Kristen Bomas, Speaker, Author, Seminar Leader, The Circle: A Kristen Bomas Company
Excruciating! Beautiful and so moving! Maria Nhambu’s Africa’s Child is a remarkable autobiography filled with the pains, tortures, and humiliations inflicted upon a young girl abandoned and unloved. Her unique writing style, honest and immediate, illustrates the intimacy of her story and her passion for conquering her world through education. It also puts the reader face to face with the truth about racism, prejudice, child abuse and cultural differences. It asks the question: “Is it different to-day?” This book is a Masterpiece! Thank you Nhambu. It’s hard to find as good a read as Africa’s Child. —Marie-Thérèse Reed, Docteur d’ ‘Etat ès Sciences (PH.D.), University of Rennes, France. Officer National Order of Merit
Africa’s Child was incredible. It will continue to have a profound impact on me. It may have taken 25 years for Nhambu to tell her story, but it was worth every minute to wait for it. What a journey of endurance, survival and triumph of the human spirit. I saw Africa through the eyes of one born there and who dared to give us every detail of how divine intervention sustained her. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with the world.
The glossary was a bonus and provided clarity of situations when needed. I am a visionary and this book has the potential to be a movie. I can’t wait for the sequel to this book. —Sue Anderson, Former Director (Ret.), Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Conyers, Georgia