Eucabeth A. Odhiambo: Auma’s Long Run

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.

When we think of AIDS in Africa, the word ‘hope’ is not one that often comes to mind. It’s more like ‘absolute desolation.’ And I think the media portrayal of “the third world” has taken so much humanity out of how we look at it. I went into Auma’s Long Run looking for more, but not knowing what I’d get out of it.

This book is full of death, especially for MG fiction. Odhaimbo doesn’t gloss over what is happening–the lesions, the weakness, the bodily functions. As an educator, her goal is to educate, and so that is what she does. She grew up in Kenya in the 80s, like Auma, when “Slim” was still so unknown, where children learned in school about the disease and then had to try and talk to their parents about it. Could you even imagine? We have a hard enough time trying to explain how the new iPhone works to them!

But there IS hope in Auma. So much hope. That’s what makes this story so compelling, and why I finished it so quickly. Even as so many people in her Kenyan village were dying, that only drove her forward to find out what was causing it. At 15 she has to balance so much–school, work, family…starvation. That’s so much for a teenager to have on her plate! Her focus just impresses me so much.

We learn about HIV/AIDS in school now, but there’s still so much stigma around it, especially when it comes to how we view the epidemic in African countries. Maybe Auma’s story can help reduce that stigma, and show us the human side.

NetGalley and Carolrhoda Books provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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