A Girl Called Problem

by Katie Quirk

In 1967, thirteen-year-old Shida and most of the rest of her Sukuma village of Litongo,... read more

In 1967, thirteen-year-old Shida and most of the rest of her Sukuma village of Litongo, in Tanzania, are moving to the ujamaa village of Njia Panda. The larger village has a school and a nurse and nearby fields where crops can be grown cooperatively. It's all part of Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere's vision: He wants boys and girls to be educated, and for citizens to work together so that individual lives and the nation as a whole will prosper. Shida, already known for her skills as a healer, is eager to attend school and to spend time learning from the village nurse. Her mother, full of bitterness for a hard life, isn't sure it's a good idea. Luckily Shida's well-respected grandfather, Babu, is sure. But many things aren't easy. One of the two male teachers at the school is wonderful, the other is angry at having to educate girls. The family cow disappears. Clothes of the girls attending school go missing. The cotton crop they've all been working on is sabotaged. Who or what is behind it all? When Shida's young female cousin falls ill, many including Babu believe a curse is to blame, but Shida doesn't necessarily agree. Katie Quirk examines the tension between traditional beliefs and changing values in an engaging, empowering story centering on the challenges faced by women and girls and the dreams of a new nation. A brief photo essay, glossary, and note from the author provide additional context for the novel. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014

show less