Auma loves to run. In her small Kenyan village, she’s a track star with big dreams. A track scholarship could allow her to attend high school and maybe even become a doctor. But a strange new sickness called AIDS is ravaging the village, and when her father becomes ill, Auma’s family needs her help at home. Soon more people are getting sick even dying and no one knows why. Now Auma faces a difficult choice. Should she stay to support her struggling family or leave to pursue her own future? Auma knows her family is depending on her, but leaving might be the only way to find the answers to questions about this new disease.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Corporal punishment, Negative attitudes toward people with HIV/AIDS, Frank discussion of STIs, Attempted sexual assault
Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 6-8. In her impressive debut, Odhiambo throws readers into a bustling nineties Kenyan village with this in-depth look at family grief. Auma is 13 and in year seven at her primary school. She loves running, has dreams of leaving Koromo to go to high school on a track scholarship, and wants to be a doctor. But when her baba (father), looking thinner, returns early from his job in Nairobi, and more people in her village start dying, Auma starts questioning everything she knows. Then her father dies, and Auma must decide whether to continue her schooling or work to feed her family. By the end of the novel, Auma is 15, but she’s grappling with decisions that would overwhelm most adults. In this gut-wrenching look at the AIDS epidemic in Kenya in the nineties, Odhiambo flawlessly weaves Kenyan tradition and culture with appropriate preteen problems (discussing crushes, competing in track meets). A detailed fictionalized portrayal of the effects of a very real disease, this novel would be an excellent asset to classrooms everywhere.
Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
In Odhiambo’s debut novel, a young girl faces a difficult decision when AIDS hits her Kenyan village. Born “facedown,” 13-year-old Auma knows she’s destined for great things. As one of the fastest runners in school, track is her ticket to getting a scholarship to continue her education. But in her village of Koromo, people are dying at an alarming rate from a disease called AIDS, and few people really know why. Auma’s dream is to become a doctor and help those afflicted. When first her father becomes ill and then her mother soon after, Auma is left shouldering the responsibility of caring for her family. Grades and running begin to take a back seat to feeding her family, and Auma must find the strength to follow her dreams, no matter how impossible they seem. In Auma, Odhiambo draws from her own experiences of growing up in Kenya during the beginning of the AIDS crisis to present a strong, intelligent protagonist who questions and refuses to give in to what is normally accepted. Auma treats readers to beautiful descriptions of the world around her but also gives them a candid look at the fear and superstition surrounding AIDS in its early days in Kenya as well as the grief of loss. All of the characters are black. Honestly told, Auma’s tale humanizes and contextualizes the AIDS experience in Kenya without sensationalizing it. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
About the Author
Auma’s Long Run is her first novel.
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