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Daughter of Dust: Growing up an Outcast in the Desert of Sudan Paperback – 8 Jul 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (8 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847396356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847396358
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 792,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Wendy Wallace is an award-winning freelance journalist and writer based in London, whose articles have appeared in the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Scotsman. This is her first novel.


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4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is a very moving story of a young girl called Leila, abandoned by her twice-divorced mother in Sudan. Women in Sudan are very much the chattels of their husbands and women used and divorced by a husband are left destitute, homeless, income-less, hungry and rejected.

Leila survived in an awful orphanage where most children succumbed to disease and neglect. The description of the place brought to my mind the pictures we saw of Romanian orphanages immediately after the fall of communism. She and her older half sister are among a group of orphans moved to a new 'orphan village' in Khartoum. The village is organised on a house system with house-mothers tending to the children of each house. There is an element of western involvement in the orphanage organisation but that is never clearly defined in the narrative. They go to school and make friends with children from 'normal' homes. It also enjoys the patronage of President Nimieri the military dictator then in power in Sudan. We briefly see an interesting perspective of him and the Islamic regime which succeeded him.

As Leila discovers family members we see live in rural Sudan at close quarters. As she grows to adulthood times of joy are followed by great hardship and sadness. I have read other books with a similar theme about women from this region of Africa. This one stands out from the pack however. It avoids sentimentalism, fatalism, self-pity and recrimination. Neither is it a book about a plucky little girl succeeding despite all that the wicked world unjustly throws at her. Wendy Wallace writes it as it is without embellishment and we can see and are free form our own view of the life of Leila Aziz and her family. It is a remarkable life and a book worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
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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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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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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