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Excerpt from Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Find Me Unafraid

Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum

by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner

Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner X
Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2016, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

Prologue
Kennedy

December 2007

The wall of discarded milk cartons is the only barrier between me and the gunfire outside. On a normal night, the noises of Kibera drift easily through these walls: reggae music, women selling vegetables by candlelight, drunken men shouting insults, dogs barking, a couple making love in their nearby shack. But now Kibera is frozen. The entire slum is holding its breath, praying for this rain of bullets to pass, like any other storm.

I'm shivering under the bed. It's so dark and breathing is difficult. I can feel spiders crawling over my back and rats poking my toes, but I stay still, afraid that any movement will draw the uniformed men. I hear a high-pitched scream, like that of a young girl. The uniformed men are spraying bullets, and they hit anyone or anything unlucky enough to cross their path. I close my eyes and pray that the girl will survive. They didn't come to Kibera for her. They came for me.

I haven't eaten since yesterday when the raids began; I'm starving for both water and food. In my pocket I have two dollars, which could ordinarily sustain me for at least a week. But even if I came out of hiding, there would be nowhere to get food. All the shops in the neighborhood have been closed or looted. The road going into Kibera has been shut by the mobs and men in uniforms—paramilitary police. Nothing and nobody comes in and out without a struggle. They are sealing us in to die.

I hear gunfire, round after round in quick succession. The quiet afterward is almost as startling as the noise. I jump, and my head hits the underside of the bed hanging so low and close to the ground. My dog, Cheetah, barks outside the door. Please be quiet, I pray. Don't call them here. I lie frozen, anticipating the footsteps, but there is only blissful silence. Thirty minutes pass, and I do not hear any shots. Slowly I drag my body out from underneath the bed. My legs are stiff, and I dance back and forth to rid myself of the pins and needles. I gingerly open my front door, pat Cheetah on his head, and say firmly, quietly, "Stay." He isn't trained, just another nearly feral street dog, but I know he senses my urgency.

I knock on the rusting sheet metal door of my neighbor, Mama Akinyi. No one answers.

"Please, Mama Akinyi, it's me, Ken," I whisper.

Slowly, she comes to open the door and hastily sneaks me in. Her young face is gaunt. She is holding her little five-year-old girl, Akinyi. The same terror I feel is visible on Akinyi's face. I'm hungry and weak, and by good luck Mama Akinyi notices my dry lips. She offers me some of the porridge that she has saved for her daughter. I ask for only a sip, just enough.

We tune the radio to a local station, keeping the volume hushed. She has not seen her husband for the last two days. Many people have been shot in Kibera.

"The bullets are close," I say.

Mama Akinyi looks at me through a veil of tears. Her husband might be among the dead. While we listen to the radio we hear some men murmuring outside—with tin and cardboard walls, sounds easily trickle in and out. I perk my ears and hear from the murmurs that it's not just twenty or thirty people dead, but more than they can count. I don't need to listen any further. I thank Mama Akinyi and quickly go back to my house before endangering her family.

Several hours later there is still quiet, which now seems more eerie than the noise. Then someone is knocking, quietly but urgently at the door.

"Ken, Ken, are you there? Wake up! It's me, Chris."

Chris is just a few years younger than I am; I have known him his whole life. I open the door and see that he's frantic with terror. He is out of breath, panting, and I know what he will say before the words come out of his mouth.

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Excerpt from Find Me Unafraid by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner. Copyright © 2015 by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner. A Harper book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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