SULLIVAN, Tara. Golden Boy. 368p. glossary. Putnam. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-16112-4.
Gr 8 Up–Habo, 13, knows that his albinism makes him a zeruzeru, less than a person. His skin burns easily, and his poor eyesight makes school almost impossible. People shun or mock him. Unable to accept his son’s white skin and yellow hair, his father abandoned the family, and they cannot manage their drought-ravaged farm in a small Tanzanian village. Habo and his mother, sister, and brother travel across the Serengeti to seek refuge with his aunt’s family in Mwanza. Along the way, they hitch a ride with an ivory poacher, Alasiri, who kills elephants without remorse for the money the tusks bring. In Mwanza, the family learns that one commodity can fetch even higher prices: a zeruzeru. Rich people will pay handsomely for albino body parts, and Alasiri plans to make his fortune. Habo must flee to Dar es Salaam before he is killed. After a harrowing escape, he reaches the city and miraculously encounters a person to whom his appearance makes no difference: a blind woodcarver named Kweli. Slowly Habo develops a sense of self-worth as well as carving skills. When Alasiri brings ivory for Kweli to carve, the boy and old man work with the police to send the hunter to prison. Habo’s gripping account propels readers along. His narrative reveals his despair, anger, and bewilderment, but there are humorous moments, too. Although fortuitous encounters and repeated escapes may seem unlikely, the truth underlying the novel is even more unbelievable. In Tanzania, people with albinism have been maimed and killed for their body parts, thought to bring good luck. Readers will be haunted by Habo’s voice as he seeks a place of dignity and respect in society. An important and affecting story.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato