The Good Braider packs insight and compassion through powerful verse

The Good Braider by Terry Farish (Marshall Cavendish, 2012)

We are fortunate to have so many gifted writers in the Seacoast. Among our many treasures is a true gem- Terry Farish. Ms. Farish has written books for people of all ages from one of our favorite pictures books, The Cat Who Likegood braiderd Potato Soup (Candlewick Press, 2003), to adult novels such as A House in Earnest (Steerforth Press, 2000). In her latest book, however, The Good Braider (Marshall Cavendish, 2012), Ms. Farish tests her mettle writing for young adults. This powerful novel in verse follows the experience of a Sudanese refugee girl as she arrives in New England.

Using sparse but powerful verse, The Good Braider, shares the story of Viola, a teenage girl in war-torn South Sudan. Surviving the horrific trauma of the genocide, Viola, her mother and her brother endure a harrowing escape from Sudan to Cairo and ultimately arrive in Portland, Maine. Once here, Viola and her family struggle to settle in. They have to find a home, jobs, learn the language, keep warm, participate in school, and learn the laws of their new society which are often in conflict with their own culture.

Many things make The Good Braider truly remarkable. This story of a current and ongoing genocide will captivate readers. The novel in verse format demands each word and phrase to carry a hefty load of content and feeling and Ms. Farish succeeds in conveying the most intense moments and feelings. This format also makes it very accessible for many levels of readers- including English Language Learners like Viola herself.

Ms. Farish is personally committed to the Viola’s of our region and the world. A long-time humanitarian, Ms. Farish’s extensive volunteer work at refugee camps in Kenya and with recent immigrants to Northern New England greatly informed Viola’s character and journey. Ms. Farish gives readers the unique gift of an authentic and unrelenting picture of the courage and tension that so many strong and courageous Violas experience. Viola, in turn, gives the reader a conduit for understanding and developing compassion for some of our newest neighbors.

The New Hampshire Hippo reviewer described my experience most succinctly:
If you want to know how [people from Sudan] got here, read the news accounts. If you want to know how it feels to move from a violent, war-torn country to a community that fights over where to put a Walmart, then read The Good Braider.”

Hippo, The New Hampshire Weekly May 17, 2012 p. 59-60
More about Ms. Farish’s work in the refugee camps along with anecdotes about the music, workshops, curricula, and communities inspired by The Good Braider can be found at her blog www.goodbraider.com.
The Good Braider is also the Teen Book Club’s book choice for our February. For more information about the Teen Book Club please contact Mollie at memulligan@cityofportsmouth.com

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