Leila understands from early on that she is not part of normal Sudanese society. Her parents are unable to care for her, so she is banished to a strict orphanage, along with children born outside marriage. At school, Leila and her best friend Amal are called 'daughters of sin'. Her pretty sister, Zulima, is married off to a much older man, while the nannies say an abandoned girl is lucky to get an offer of marriage at all. At the age of ten, both Leila and Amal endure female circumcision. Suffering appalling prejudice, and thought to bring the 'evil eye', Leila remains outgoing and brave and manages to get an education. She goes on to marry, have four children, and divorce, yet even grown up she continues to know the stigma of being abandoned.
Undaunted, Leila founds her own charity to help those shunned as outcasts and she continues to work tirelessly to dispel prejudice. This beautifully written, graceful memoir perfectly evokes the heat and colour of the North African desert and tells of the true friendships that are born out of adversity.
Wendy Wallace, author of The Painted Bridge, is an award-winning freelance journalist and writer. Before she turned to fiction, she was a senior features writer for the London Times Educational Supplement for ten years and the author of a nonfiction book on life in an inner city primary school, Oranges and Lemons. Her second novel is The Sacred River. She lives in London.
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