Terry Farish is a writer with a passion for following the stories of people from many cultures who come as immigrants or refugees to the U.S. The Good Braider is her free verse novel for young adults and adults about 17-year old Viola and her family’s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. She wrote The Good Braider after travel to Kakuma Refugee Camp on the border of Kenya and South Sudan and years of collecting oral histories among southern Sudanese families in Portland. The novel was selected as a Best Book of the Year by the American Library Association, Bank Street College of Education, and School Library Journal. Her picture books include The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup, illus. by Barry Root and The Alleyway set in Lawrence, MA. The Alleyway, about a small boy whose brother has been deployed in the US Army, is in production and will be illustrated by Oliver Dominquez. In 2015 her novel, Either the Beginning or the End of the World, will be published by Carolrhoda Books. Through the New Hampshire Humanities Council, Terry leads literacy programs with refugee and immigrant parents, and she also teaches writing at Manchester (NH) Community College. You can visit her site at http://terryfarish.com.
Excerpt from The Good Braider verse “Girl From Juba”:
Women are gathered in our courtyard with my
Mother – Tereza, and grandmother and my little brother, Francis.
They talk about this latest killing.
Kiden, my little cousin, sits between my knees.
My fingers shake in her hair
which I’m supposed to be dressing.
Kiden reaches up and pretends to braid mine.
I feel her tiny fingers poke and see her enormous eyes,
her eye lashes almost touching mine.
I twist a bit of red and yellow cloth and tie it quick
like a band around her head. “Ey.”
Some mothers and their children have fled
here – to Juba – from their villages.
Other mothers have fled to the
refugee camps. That is what they talk about:
how to flee.
Ladies come to our courtyard for my mother’s braids.
When I was little my fingers rode on her long narrow ones.
Her fingers danced over my cousins’ hair like feathers,
shaping twists and lines with a single tiny bead
slipped on the end.
I learned to braid by feel more than sight.
My mother calls me by two names, Viola – for Jesus,
and Keji – for first born girl.
“All men in Sudan will want to marry you,” she used to say.
“You are a girl from Juba.”
From her Edwardian desk the lady gazes,
Fingers fretting down a velvet drape.
She looks across the lane to Lenny’s shed.
Not Church End at all, Lenny’s shed.
Last to not have the Financial Times,”
And since he lives to please he fetched a bloke
“Dunno. To rip it down? Say fifty quid.”
The next day pain shoots deep in Lenny’s back.
He can’t stand up. He can’t lay down. Can’t even
Pee. He sits, heels dug, mouth taut, pressing his
Groin. Ten days he sits and Lady A
Brings sponge cakes and, it being pretty June,
“Aren’t you good to me.” His eyes
Are dull with pain and begging. “Don’t you
He keeps his urine in a bucket
By his chair. Now he can’t stop. He leaks.
He writhes and tries to plug it with a fist.
Lady M, in from the garden, lets spill out a gasp
And turns her eyes from Lenny to his hearth stone and
Original oak beams. Lovely, she thinks.
Had Lenny’s bloke been there he might have said,
“Dunno. Eighty thousand? Walls ‘er thin.”
The county sends an ambulance to take him,
But Lenny’s shed still sags over Church End.
It blocks the view from Lady C’s. its dog roses
Ramble excessively. its wood dangles.
Its floor droops. its chards of window panes call
Raucus chatterpies to pick and preen.
Church End ladies hold their breath as they walk past
And think of Lenny, maybe time to go to
Chippy, got a nice home there in Chippy
For the last old timer workman at Church End.
They wire Lenny, strap him, send him home to Church End
Decomposing like the dank floor of his shed.
Chatterpies flash, black and white, warding off Lenny with
Cold quiche in wedges and fistfulls of peonies.
His hand shakes so, his tea splatters their skirts.
Lenny, who lives to please, peers at his victims.
“What does we do now? ” Lenny says.
Lady M backs to his door, drums the brass
With oval nails.
“Dunno. No more ‘in eight stone
Are you, Lenny?”
They promise biscuits and meringues,
Flashing singly down the lane, steeling themselves
To the earthy stench of Lenny’s shed.