During the Civil War between 1991 and 2004, Sierra Leone, located in the western horn of Africa had their own little war going on. Rebels were attacking local villages and injuring/killing residents in the villages. The rebels wanted a new government, one that didn’t give money to the refugees, and they were determined to get it at whatever cost. The rebels also wanted to gain control of all the diamond mines located in Sierra Leone. The men in this ‘tribe’ were ruthless and if they chose to not kill the citizens of the village they were attacking, they would violently chop off a portion of their bodies (mostly their hands or arms), or force them to come with them and join the rebel tribe.
They made their way from the village to the village leaving hundreds upon hundreds of the habitants injured and about three times as many dead. Children would have to learn to live their lives without their parents and most likely without their hands or arms.
Women were being used as decoys to get villagers to trust them and treat their ‘injuries‘ so that others could get inside and attack. It was during this war that The Bite of the Mango takes place. The Bite of the Mango, written by Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland, is a memoir about an early teenage girl named Mariatu who endures suffering and loss very early in life. She was given to her aunt and uncle when she was a child to have them raise her and grew up with a respectable family.
Everyone in the village considered each other family, even if they weren’t related. They treated everyone with the same amount of respect, no matter who they were. Then one fateful day, the rebels found their village and attacked. When they attacked the village, many people were killed, and many more were injured and disabled. Maria lost both her hands in the attack and had to make the trek to a faraway city, freetown, to receive treatment at their hospital.
Throughout the book, The Bite of the Mango, Mariatu Kamara is faced with various conflicts that affect the person that she becomes later in life. As Mariatu loses her hands very early in her life, she has to try everything to adapt to her new life. As the rebels held her in her village, tied up, during the attack, she knew that she would rather die than become one of the rebels, as they had told her she would be. But when the men told her that she could go, but told her she would have to pay a sacrifice for being able to live, she knew that she still would much rather die than lose a limb. “Two boys steadied me as my body began to sway. As the machete came downt, things went silent. I closed my eyes tightly, but then they popped open and l saw everything. It took the boy two attempts to cut off my right hand, the first swipe didn’t get through the bones, which I saw sticking out in all different shapes and sizes.
He brought the machete down again in a different spot, higher up on my arm. This time, my hand flew from the rock onto the ground “.Maria lost her hands and lost her ability to be independent. Everyone had to do everything for her, and she couldn’t help anyone in her village anymore. Her entire life had been turned upside down, but she didn’t give up Maria began to learn how to do simple tasks again. Her family attached Velcro to her arms and would stick a spoon between them so that she could eat on her own. With time she learned to do even more small tasks on her own, when she traveled to England and is asked to try prosthetic hands she tells everyone, “‘I can do everything I need to do without them, and better. She knew that even though having prosthetic hands would make her look more normal, she could do everything without them and that she could live her life surviving the way she had the past few years.
She learned how to do everything from cook, to tie her shoes, to get dressed without them. Even though things were hard for her, she could do everything she set her mind to do, just like she did when she was pregnant. When Mariatu lived in her original village, she was raped by a man named Salieu. Salieu had wanted to marry her and he thought that if she had his baby, she would have no choice but to marry him. But when Mariatu finds out she was pregnant, she thought that there was no way for her to live with a baby, and without hands. She didn’t want her child to be brought into a world where rebels were attacking anyone they felt like attacking. “‘Take me, Allah Take my baby and me I want to die Mariatu would rather die than to raise a baby in the conditions her country was in.
She actually tried to commit suicide, but her friend stopped her. Nine months later, when her son, Abdul, is born, she still felt no real joy. While everyone else was giving her more of everything, she would rather be out begging with her friends than to be with her child, She had her family watch him so that she could bring back money for everyone else. However, when Abdul died of malnutrition, she felt as though it was her fault, and began to go into a deep depression “‘Abdul was a person. He knew I did not want him, so he left this world’” (109). She felt that since she didn’t spend time with Abdul, that he knew she didn’t love her, and so hechose to die. She thought she killed him with her lack of love for him.
She later vowed that she would become a better person and find a way to somehow better the world. The conflicts that Mariatu Kamara faced throughout The Bite of the Mango, changed the person she became later in life. Losing her hands at the age of ten, and having her son die right in front of her, made her promise that she would become a better person and somehow better the world. Mariatu learned to not take anything for granted because she knew how quickly something could be taken. With only losing her hands, she lost practically all her independence. Even though what happened to Mariatu was horrible, she learned to look at her life with happiness, because not everyone had the opportunity that she had, and there were a lot of people in the world that had it worse than her. Mariatu wrote this memoir as not only a book about the war in Sierra Leone, but as a reminder to everyone who read it, that something you take for granted, could be taken away from you in an instant.