feat2_Braiderhires_main
Her work became fiction — in verse. The Good Braider is told in short, free-verse poems, each of them its own vignette or mini-chapter. Farish was attracted to "the way [poetry] captured the very unemotional, spare way that people I knew from Sudan talked about their lives. There's no nonsense, there's no sentimentality, and I tried to capture that in the voice that Viola spoke in. There's not a lot of extra words."

Consider this interaction between Viola and her grandmother, Habuba, who is braiding her hair — an ever-present ritual that comes to stand in for Viola's identification as African as well as for her womanhood, and her attempt to weave together different identities.

" 'You have things to do,' " Habuba tells her while twisting gold-colored strips of rag into her hair.

'God gave you long legs

for walking and running.'

She turns me and runs her callused hand

Down my legs to my rubber flip-flops

and the tall arch of my big feet.

'You are a daughter with a quick mind

who learns fast from experience.

You'll learn a tongue gives you power.'

Perhaps, but power is hard to come by when you're a young woman, when you're an immigrant, and when you carry the emotional scars of rape and abuse. Viola's most complicated struggle for power is with her mother, to whom she is both deeply connected and co-dependent. The two women harbor resentments and fears that go unspoken until they boil over. Viola's mother can't accept her daughter's choices if they look like assimilation; Viola can't figure out how to please her mother while also adapting to their new surroundings.

I have been here less than a year,

yet I do not think I can be all Sudanese, all the time.

Already, am I part American?

I don't feel like any one thing.

But then, for a fleeting moment in a car with an American boy, listening to African music, Viola sees a glimpse of who she might be — how all her identities, braided together, might form one complete woman.

"For a minute I am on the edge of knowing who I am," she thinks to herself. Thanks to Farish and The Good Braider, we, too, are closer to understanding.

THE GOOD BRAIDER book launch + performance by OD Bonny | November 8 @ 7 pm | 7th Floor, Glickman Library, University of Southern Maine, Portland | Free | 207.420.1126 orkirsten@curiouscity.net

< prev  1  |  2  | 
  Topics: Books , Portland, book, REFUGEE
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY DEIRDRE FULTON
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   INSPIRED BY THE LEGENDS  |  April 03, 2014
    Acclaimed local singer celebrates Judy Garland
  •   A SUNNIER OUTLOOK  |  April 03, 2014
    The Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project released its annual State of the News Media report last week.
  •   ENTER THE WORLD OF FELIX YZ  |  March 20, 2014
    The brainchild of local author and WMPG program director Lisa Bunker, Felix is the 15-year-old protagonist of a new interactive online serial, The ZeroDay Countdown of Felix Yz.
  •   HARNESSING THE TIDES  |  March 20, 2014
    Under the smooth direction of Brian P. Allen, three Equity actors delicately tackle the terrors of dementia, aging, and loss in this New England premiere.
  •   DEMONIZING THE TRUTHTELLERS  |  March 14, 2014
    The economist argues that capitalism, while it may be all we know, is worth examining, criticizing, and ultimately overthrowing. 

 See all articles by: DEIRDRE FULTON