Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Texts show the journey characters of the Bone Sparrow must go through to transition to their matured selves while exploring the underlying values the reader can choose to accept or refuse. Seeing the world through the eyes of a character normally discriminated by society has made me reflect about universal issues I would normally ignore such as racism and poverty. By creating realistic protagonists, Zana Fraillon creates a balance between a child’s innocence and frivolity and the unjust reality. Zana Fraillon incorporates globally acknowledged themes such as freedom and justice into a story told by people abandoned by society to encourage awareness and empathy in the reader.

Subhi lives behind the wires where the underdogs must abide by the “superior” and their unilateral, unjust laws. Jimmie is not emotionally free and still wallows in her grief about her mother’s death.

Zana Fraillon’s novel takes into account crucial aspects of the detention centre, thus presenting me with a vivid depiction of the unjust and unfair reality refugees must face every day by Subhi’s perspective and first person narration.

Subhi shows me his perspective through the symbolism of the Night Sea, a mental utopia he resorts to in times of hardships. These glimpses of Subhi’s imagination are especially powerful in building the foundation of Subhi’s characteristics as I can infer that his imagination fuels his hope and will to live amidst the injustice. “When Beaver picks up that rock, I tell my eyes to shut and my ears to close, but they don’t listen.

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And then Beaver..” Eli died because of being one of the few who dared to challenge the unfair rules everyone had to abide by in the detention centre. He was murdered for showing the bravery everyone else lacked. He was murdered for speaking up about his perspective about the world he lived in. Subhi then finishes what Eli started, as he tells the reporter his story of survival, one that encourages empathy in the responder, about his life in an unjust place, proving that he has matured and that justice was one of the values hidden in the text.

Zana Fraillon’s novel takes into account both Jimmie and Subhi’s backstories, constantly outlining and reminding me the loss both characters have gone through, vital in building the different aspects which make up both characters’ perspectives. Subhi has lost his father while Jimmie has lost her mother and both characters are still clinging onto the past, showing that both characters are not free emotionally, an efficacious strategy to make readers empathise both characters. Zana Fraillon uses third person limited for Jimmie’s point of view, allowing me to have a broader look at the situation at hand. Jimmie comes in to take the focus away from the topic of refugees as Subhi’s story becomes too overwhelming, effectively creating a balance as the stories of both characters develop. Zana Fraillon draws the attention to the bone sparrow, a story written by Jimmie’s mother, which the whole book revolves around. To Subhi, sparrows are a symbol of death, but to Jimmie, sparrows represent freedom, luck and protection, as told in her mum’s story, the Bone Sparrow. “May you forever bring us luck and protection, and may you carry our souls to freedom.” The legend of the bone sparrow is Jimmie’s connection with her mother. Unable to read the book, however, she depends on Subhi to untangle her family’s history and persistence for freedom. At the end of the novel, Subhi tells her the ending of her mum’s story, how Anka and Oto were reunited after persisting despite all the loss they went through and how freedom was awaiting them, confirming how freedom is another value embedded in the text of the novel.

Zana Fraillon uses the perspective of her characters such as Jimmie and Subhi to weave an argument and spread awareness about justice and freedom, using third person limited and first person to get a broader look at the same situation. Though the main point of the bone sparrow is to entertain, the words Zana Fraillon has placed with intent serves to inform and broadcast strategic empathy by emphasising common weaknesses and dreams everyone has as a human. From this novel, I have learnt the importance of justice and freedom and how text and the world can be viewed through different lenses.

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Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon. (2019, Nov 23). Retrieved from

Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
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