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Black Mamba Boy by NADIFA MOHAMED
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Black Mamba Boy (original 2010; edition 2010)

by NADIFA MOHAMED

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137787,614 (3.52)57
Member:Smiler69
Title:Black Mamba Boy
Authors:NADIFA MOHAMED
Info:HARPERCOLLINS (2010), Paperback
Collections:Wishlist, Audiobooks
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Tags:Library Book, Audiobook

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Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed (2010)

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This is the author's first novel. It a semi biographical account of her grandfather's life. Jama, a eleven year old boy in Aden a costal town in Yemen, lives with his mother who works in the local coffee bean factory in 1935. The boy and his mother live on the terrace of their relatives. The mother and the boy are ill treated by their relatives and so he runs away from home to live on the streets. He grows up on the street and after his mother dies of tuberculosis returns to his hometown in Somalia. East Africa at that time is governed by Italians and as the Second World War approaches, Jama is recruited in the army as a foot soldier. As the Italians suffer heavy losses and are on the verge of defeat at the hand of the British, Jama deserts from the army and starts a shop in a small town in Eritrea where he meets and fall in love with a girl whom he eventually marries. But Jama again travels to Egypt to find work in merchant navy ships but eventually finds his way back to his family.

This story gives us an insight into the Somali lifestyle and their struggle during a difficult time (Second World War). The writing is mediocre but the subject is quite interesting hence it is a page turner. ( )
  mausergem | Jul 29, 2014 |
Really enjoyed this book but it was a bit too long. ( )
  Carolinejyoung | Aug 30, 2012 |
Jama is a young Somali boy, living the life of a street urchin in Yemen/Aden in 1935. His mother's death is the catalyst for his odyssey across North Africa in search of his father, who had left the famnily in order to find work.

This is more than the quest for Jama's father. It is also very much the story of Jama's journey to manhood.

I love how the character of Jama was so completely rendered. I loved how he grew as a person as his world expanded. Each new experience seemed to change him and become a part of him.

This book caused me to reflect on how our experiences change us, become a part of the fabric of who we are. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Mar 29, 2011 |
Jama is a young boy living on the streets of Yemen in 1935. His father disappeared years ago and when his mother dies, Jama sets out in search of him. He travels all the way to Egypt, having many adventures, meeting outrageous characters, and eventually learning what is really important to him in life. Jama witnesses and participates in historic events and provides a very different perspective on some of the important happenings of that time.

Jama is a likable fellow and I enjoyed traveling with him. He is often funny, sometimes deeply thoughtful, and attracts some interesting people. For me the book was a little unbalanced. I would have preferred a bit less of Jama's search for his father and for wealth and bit more time after he has his epiphany. I felt like I went through all his trials with him only to have the book end before he fully realizes his triumph! Still, the humor and armchair travel make this book worth reading.

I listened to Black Mamba Boy on audio. Kevin Kenerly is the narrator and he has a deep, almost breathy voice that adds to the mystery and atmosphere of the story. ( )
  frisbeesage | Nov 21, 2010 |
Could have been much better.

I did not enjoy this book as much as I had expected, the writing style was awkward and the narration lacked 'fill-in' detail.
As an example - it is unclear how Jama's mother came to be in Yemen when her family is from Hargeisa, Somaliland, and her husband seems to have headed off in enteirly the opposte direction.
Instances like this occur throughout the book and I spent a fair amount of time back-tracking to try and clarify points, often fruitlessly.
From the outset I did not feel the story flowed, I kept expecting it to get better but in my opinion it did not.

The other thing that would have been a great help is a map of the countries concerned. I'm sure my geography needs to be improved but I don't suppose I was the only person who had to go on to Google maps to see how Yemen, Somaliland and Palestine were connected, being from 3 vastly different areas of the world.

Jama's father disappeared from his life while he was still a baby and he was left with just his mother to care for him. She had to work long hours to make enough for them to live on and Jama was left running loose with the street kids in 1930's Aden, Yemen.
He spent less and less time at home and learned to survive 'in the wild'.
When his mother died he returned to relatives in his native Somalia, but it is not long before he decided to go in search of his father, rumoured to be working as a driver in Sudan.
This was a hugely long and dangerous treck for a ten-year-old and relied very much on the kindness of strangers and distant relatives, and on Jama's amazing instinct for survival.

I agree with reviewers who would have liked a little more explanation at the end. I would have liked to have known whether the wife Jama returns to is the author's mother and how they ultimately came to be living in UK.
Perhaps a sequel is planned???

Not of the same standard as Khaled Hosseini, Andrea Levy nor Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and not a book I'd particularly recommend. The one thing going for it was the fact that it was based on the true story of the author's father but I would have liked to have known to what extent it followed his true journey rather than fiction. ( )
  DubaiReader | Sep 15, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374114196, Hardcover)

Yemen, 1935. Jama is a “market boy,” a half-feral child scavenging with his friends in the dusty streets of a great seaport. For Jama, life is a thrilling carnival, at least when he can fill his belly. When his mother—alternately raging and loving—dies young, she leaves him only an amulet stuffed with one hundred rupees. Jama decides to spend her life’s meager savings on a search for his never-seen father; the rumors that travel along clan lines report that he is a driver for the British somewhere in the north. So begins Jama’s extraordinary journey of more than a thousand miles north all the way to Egypt, by camel, by truck, by train, but mostly on foot. He slings himself from one perilous city to another, fiercely enjoying life on the road and relying on his vast clan network to shelter him and point the way to his father, who always seems just a day or two out of reach.

In his travels, Jama will witness scenes of great humanity and brutality; he will be caught up in the indifferent, grinding machine of war; he will crisscross the Red Sea in search of working papers and a ship. Bursting with life and a rough joyfulness, Black Mamba Boy is debut novelist Nadifa Mohamed’s vibrant, moving celebration of her family’s own history.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:10 -0400)

Fending for himself after the death of his young mother, wild youth Jama of 1935 Yemen dedicates his scant resources to tracking down the father he never met, a one thousand-mile trek toward Egypt that subjects him to the perils and adventures of the open road.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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