Author(s): Gavin Weston
A haunting, beautiful story of Haoua, a young girl growing up in a remote village in the Republic of Niger
Harmattan. A dry, dusty wind that blows from the Sahara across West Africa. [Probably from Arabic haram, a forbidden or accursed thing.]
Spirited, independent, and intelligent, Haoua has benefited from a stable home life and a loving and attentive mother. She enjoys working and playing with her siblings and friends, and she worships her elder brother, Abdelkrim, a serving soldier who sends money home to support the family. But, on his last home visit, Abdelkrim quarrels with their father, accusing him of gambling away the money he sends and of being the cause of their mother's worsening health. It also emerges that their father plans to take a second wife. Despite this Haoua finds contentment in her schoolwork, her dreams of becoming a teacher, and in writing assiduously to the family in Ireland who act as her aid sponsors. But for Haoua, there are new storm clouds on the horizon. As civil strife mounts in Niger, Haoua begins to fear for Abdelkrim's safety. Haoua's mother's illness is much more serious and further advanced than anyone had recognized, and her father's plans are turning out to be far more threatening than she could have ever imagined. Approaching her 12th birthday, Haoua is alone and vulnerable for the first time in her life.