Meeting the author of “The Bite of the Mango” Mariatu Kamara

Member of WomenwithWords program posing with Mariatu Kamara (centre in red) after her book reading

Back in March, members from the WomenwithWords program were invited to an afternoon reading of The Bite of the Mango (2008) with author Mariatu Kamara and co-writer Susan McClelland. The Bite of the Mango was one of the first books we read for reading circle.

Mariatu Kamara is a survivor of the war in Sierra Leone. Her memoir, The Bite of the Mango is a remarkable account of her experiences living in her war-torn country. At the age of 12, Mariatu’s village was invaded by rebels where she was raped, beaten and both her hands were cut off.

The 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone began in 1991, when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) challenged the government, and invaded villages throughout the West- African nation. Thousands of civilians including women and children were tortured, raped and maimed during this time. Only a few lucky and resourceful victims were able to seek refuge abroad.

Mariatu, a well-dressed young woman with fine braids, spoke with a quite demeanor yet delivered a powerful message.  Journalist Susan McClelland accompanied Mariatu to the event and is the writer responsible to chronicling Mariatu’s story. Ms. McClelland read an excerpt from the book while Mariatu answered all the questions from the attentive audience.

The room was filled with young women all part Literature for Life’s “Women with Words” reading program, staff members and volunteers. Across Toronto “Women with Word” gathers pregnant young women and parenting mother together to read and discuss powerful stories, including Mariatu Kamara’s The Bite of the Mango.

The circled chairs and child-friendly environment made the reading event intimate, comfortable and interactive. Many audience members prepared questions beforehand and Mariatu, with patience and grace answered every one.

The conversation touched on a variety of topics ranging from the loss of Mariatu’s son, to her experience begging on the streets of Sierra Leon and her attitudes towards homelessness in Toronto, from her constant communication with her family back home to joking about adjusting to Canadian winters. When asked about the advice she’d give to young people, Mariatu encouraged people to move forward. To always move forward.

See more about The Bite of the Mango HERE

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