Originally published in 2007, “Burn My Heart” by Beverley Naidoo (http://www.beverleynaidoo.com/index2.html) is a story about cultures clashing and friendships tested because of prejudice and hate. Set in Kenya in the 1950s, the story follows two boys, Mugo and Mathew. Mugo is a Kikuyu teen, who works in the kitchen of a British settler. His family has worked for the Grayson family since they “settled” the land, a land under Kirinyaga mountain. Mathew Grayson is the British family’s son, who grew up with Mugo, who does not understand the tensions brewing around him and struggles to grasp what it means for his friendship with Mugo.
Both stories are interlaced together showing how one’s actions can be the consequences of another. Naidoo talks about the rise of the Mau Mau, a movement that rose out of the need for the Kikuyu to take back their land and fight for their civil rights, and how the British government dealt with the uprising only exacerbated the racial tensions between the settlers and the people they stole the land from.
I never knew about “the Emergency” or the Mau Mau movement and it is important to see how and remember how movements in other countries parallel those in the United States. The lives and struggles of the two boys, though fictional, are very believable and Naidoo expresses their conflict between how they view each other and how society wants them to view each other. This does not have a happy sugar-coated ending and is at times intense for an elementary school reader. It is definitely geared towards middle schoolers.
Excellent and I am glad that it is finally published for the United States market.