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Daughter of Dust: Growing Up an Outcast in the Desert of Sudan [Paperback]

Wendy Wallace
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 6 Aug 2009 --  
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Book Description

6 Aug 2009
Leila understands from early on that she is not part of normal Sudanese society. Her parents are unable to care for her, so she is banished to a strict orphanage, along with children born outside marriage. At school, Leila and her best friend Amal are called 'daughters of sin'. Her pretty sister, Zulima, is married off to a much older man, while the nannies say an abandoned girl is lucky to get an offer of marriage at all. At the age of ten, both Leila and Amal endure female circumcision. Suffering appalling prejudice, and thought to bring the 'evil eye', Leila remains outgoing and brave and manages to get an education. She goes on to marry, have four children, and divorce, yet even grown up she continues to know the stigma of being abandoned. Undaunted, Leila founds her own charity to help those shunned as outcasts and she continues to work tirelessly to dispel prejudice. This beautifully written, graceful memoir perfectly evokes the heat and colour of the North African desert and tells of the true friendships that are born out of adversity.

Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (6 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847375308
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847375308
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 724,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in Kent, in England, and have spent my adult life in London. I worked first as a photographer, then for many years as a feature writer. My journalism led to my two non-fiction books - Daughter of Dust (Simon & Schuster 2009) and Oranges and Lemons (Routledge 2005). In 2001, I was Education Journalist of the Year.

I have now turned to writing fiction, which had always been my dream. The Painted Bridge, the story of a woman tricked into a Victorian asylum in the year 1859, is my first novel. My second, The Sacred River - about three women who leave a fog-bound London in 1882 for the light and heat of Egypt - appears in 2013, also published by Simon & Schuster..

I've been greatly helped and encouraged in my writing by my family, my agent and my writing friends. My two grown up sons are sources of inspiration. As well as enjoying company and solitude, reading and writing, I am an enthusiastic swimmer in the women's pond on Hampstead Heath.

To receive updates on my books and writing life, please 'like' my Facebook author page or visit my website.

Product Description

About the Author

Leila Aziz was born in Khartoum, Sudan in 1969, where she still lives, running her charity for adult orphans who face discrimination. Wendy Wallace is an award-wining journalist and writer. She has spent many years in Sudan, working mainly for the UN. She won the title Education Journalist of the year in 2001, and has written for The Times, Telegraph, Guardian and several Middle Eastern publications. She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful thought-provoking read 26 Aug 2009
Wendy Wallace has crafted a beutifully written book about Leila Aziz, a remarkable Sudanese woman brought up in the tough environment of Sudan in the 1970s and 1980s as a social outcast.

The book never descends into the mawkish "miserable childhood" genre. Certainly some of Leila's experiences are harrowing, but they are seen through the eyes of a girl for whom normality is tough and who simply yearns to be treated with respect and kindness. Wallace never imposes her own views on her subject and captures a genuine rarely heard voice of an ordinary woman of Sudan, propelled into extraordinary measures in her struggle to lead a normal life.

It is ultimately an optimistic book, which has something to say about quiet determination, chipping away at an apparently insurmountable problem until it starts to crumble. It reminded me of a song called Millwork which has lyrics that say: "It goes like it goes, like the river flows, and time just rolls right on. And maybe what's good gets a little bit better and maybe what's bad gets gone."

Bravo to Leila for her courage and patience and to Wendy Wallace for her talent to bring Leila's story to life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Daughter of Dust 16 Aug 2009
I was third in the queue to read my copy of this book, because members of my family could not put it down, and I wanted to have it for myself! This book is so good...

Leila's story has a positive (and necessary) outcome, but all the same it is deeply saddening to read of her experiences, and Ms Wallace's depiction and consummate writing bring it all to life. I especially appreciated how cleverly the unfolding story was sequenced and all the minute textural detail woven in.
We all three found ourselves transported into Leila's world. The author manages to translate and embody a deeply moving voice, and the geographical context is satisfyingly authentic. Europeans reading this story, can acquire a genuine sense of what it is like belonging to, and being brought up in a place, culture and society radically different from their own and because they are fully able to identify with the experience of the characters, find themselves haunted by an aching bond of human empathy.

When I finished reading this book I continued under its spell for days.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DAUGHTER OF DUST 16 Oct 2009
Wendy Wallace takes us from the abandoned Sudanese girl Leila's early childhood right through to her 40s, by which time she is running a centre for abandoned babies and children in Khartoum. Wallace writes in the first person and evokes Leila's suffering during her difficult, loveless childhood with tremendous compassion but never pity. Leila has the same needs, dreams and desires as any six year old girl anywhere in the world, and the author seems to have effortlessly got right inside her head and to recognise her feelings of isolation.

Right from the start we see that Leila has a strong inner core that will sustain her through the unimaginable horrors ahead, including abuse from her carers, or nannies as they are called, and genital mutilation when she is l2. Wallace could never have written about Sudan so authentically without having spent a lot of time there, and when she describes the smell of sesame seeds roasting or falafel cooking, we can almost taste it, as I could the desert dust in the back of my throat as I turned the pages.

It is harrowing to grasp through Leila's experiences the realities of growing up in a society that allows middle aged men to marry children, while women who have sex outside of such 'marriages', decided in mosques by men who sign womens' lives away without their consent, are regarded as no better than prostitutes and cast out by society. It is mostly the products of these 'unholy' liaisons who are the abandoned babies Wallace writes of, but she does it without judgement or malice, allowing Leila's experience to speak for itself.

This is a giant of a book that reads more like a novel than a biography. Think of Slumdog Millionaire, except that the prize at the end is that Leila survives to help other abandoned children.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read 21 April 2010
By V. Dell
I read this book with my book group, and every one of us loved it. It's humanity, fluid narrative and empathy lifted it entirely from the welter of misery memoirs (which I avoid: I know there is madness and evil out there, but I don't want to share an intimacy with it). Whilst not without its moments of gut-wrenches, it was very matter of fact and didn't linger or offer western perspectives. This book was however entirely uplifting and inspiring, as art should be, and left me with the feeling that I knew this amazing woman and thanked the universe she was alive and breathing her love on all those that need loving! (You see how good it makes you feel? I'm gushing like a looney!). Well done to Wendy Wallace for bringing this story alive. Her way of describing a tiny child's basic needs in the first chapter was amazing. Thank you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very special book 3 Feb 2010
I read this book for my book club - and oh what a book it is. Beautifully written through Leila's eyes as she grows up in a way that says how it is without being overly sentimental. Leila's story and heartache is a privilege to read and the way she accepts her limitations is extremely humbling. It's a book that makes the reader think about what poverty does to families, and makes you realise that change is something that cannot be forced on anyone. Communities have to adapt in their own time. However, despite all the familial hardships, one is totally engrossed in Leila's story and that of her sister, mother and extended family. You are rooting for her all the way. By the time I finished I was crying with pride for what she had achieved from so little. Beautifully written by Wendy Wallace- am now going to read everything else she has written. Five stars isn't quite sufficient for this book.
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