In 1980s Kenya, 13-year-old Auma must decide whether to pursue a track scholarship that will let her attend high school or stay home to help her struggling family as AIDS ravages her village.
I received an ARC of Auma’s Long Run through NetGalley. I chose to request this book because I was looking for some diverse middle grade fiction and the blurb caught my interest.
This book is #ownvoices for Kenyan representation.
Wow. This book is really heavy, it doesn’t try to make the situation around AIDS seem better than it was. The story takes place around the time in which AIDS started to spread in Kenya.
The women and men are treated very differently in Auma’s village. Auma wants to become a doctor, but that dream seems far away, since she’s a girl, and some people think she should be getting married instead. Her comments about sexism are something that will make you laugh and frown; laugh because they’re quite sarcastic, and frown because you want to help her out of the respective situation. One part that I liked a lot is where she contemplated whether men that cry are weak or if they’re actually the stronger ones.
Throughout the story, while growing up, Auma realises that sometimes adults don’t know all of the answers. I think that any middle-grader can profit from reading about Auma’s realisation, because it’s something that children usually aren’t told. Sometimes adults won’t know the answer, and you, as a child, could find it out before the adults. Adults aren’t always correct even if they say they are.
There was an interesting scene about begging and the misconceptions about being a beggar. I thought this was a great addition to an already very educational book.
While Auma is studying for school and a chance to acheive her dreams, more people have been getting sick due to unknown causes. I thought it was really interesting that the villagers called this illness Slim and not AIDS. I’ve never thought about what people who were affected by AIDS called the disease before it was called AIDS.
I wish there had been more scenes with Abuya, a classmate of Auma’s, as I feel like we only caught glimpses of his situation and never fully knew how he felt about certain things.
I thought it was interesting how the daily routine of running to school ended up being one the main things that influenced her life. I liked that the author kept it as one of the main plotlines and that it tied up with the ending. The ending was beautiful, it’s an open ending but I feel like there is one highly possible conclusion to Auma’s trip and the ending I’m imagining is a lovely conclusion to the story.
I very much recommend reading this book. It’s suitable for middle-grade readers, and I thought that the writing was age-appropriate. Some of the scenes are very heavy though, so if you feel like you might not be ready for it, then I would suggest not reading it or waiting for a while. This is a book that would benefit from an in-depth discussion, which is why I would suggest it for a children’s book club or a voluntary classroom/library group read.
Auma’s Long Run is the kind of book that I’m thinking of when I talk about books that educate through fiction. Readers will follow this captivating story and only realise afterwards that they have been received knowledge while reading.
Trigger warnings: physical abuse, death, AIDS, terminal illness.
Have you read Auma’s Long Run? Would you like to?