A stranger-than-fiction story based on the real-life experiences of a young boy who was smuggled out of Ethiopia amid political unrest to start a new life from nothing in Calgary, Alberta.
Tesfaye lives behind the safe walls of his family’s compound in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His father is an important man, Tesfaye goes to one of the best schools in the city, his mother and older sisters keep him fed and cared for. He and his beloved brother, Ishi, can spend their time playing soccer, racing chickens and spying on the guests — as long as they stay away from the sharp horns of the family’s goat and avoid their father’s fiery temper.
When rebel forces take over the capital, life becomes more complicated. Tesfaye’s father’s cousin takes him to live in the former imperial palace, and Tesfaye becomes the most favored son. His father takes him along when he gives political speeches and distributes leaflets. It is all very exciting, even if Tesfaye doesn’t pay attention to what the leaflets actually say.
And then suddenly his father is arrested, and Tesfaye’s own life is in peril. His mother sends him into hiding in her father’s village, until even that is too dangerous. Tesfaye is put in the care of a human smuggler and embarks on an uncertain, confusing and terrifying journey through Kenya, Europe and finally to Canada, where he is put on a Greyhound bus with ten dollars and instructions to stay on the bus until someone tells him to get off. You are safe now, says the smuggler. You are in Canada. This country will protect you.
And so begins his new life in North America, sheltered for a while by fellow expats, threatened by the authorities, shunted from a group home to foster care. But through it all he is plagued by confusion and grief, wondering whether he will ever know what has happened to the family he left behind.
Key Text Features
? author’s note
? historical context
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
SUE FARRELL HOLLER is a journalist, literacy advocate and the author of picture books and a middle-grade novel, including Lacey and the African Grandmothers (Second Story Press, 2009). She is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, past president of the Grande Prairie Children’s Literature Roundtable and former director of the Young Alberta Book Society.
Praise for Sue Farrell Holler and Cold White Sun:
“The care taken with this narrative is apparent on every page; readers cannot help but feel for Tesfaye and others like him who must sacrifice so much for survival and safety. A profound, heartbreaking narrative filled with loss, confusion, displacement, and longing.” — Kirkus, starred review
“Holler has taken great care to focus on Tesfaye’s humanity throughout a story that could so easily be overtaken by its political upheaval, physical peril, and culture shock; readers will be compelled by Tesfaye’s eye-opening perspective as they follow him through terror and survival.” — Horn Book
“An excellent addition to a school library, Cold White Sun is a lovingly crafted narrative that is stranger-than-fiction.” — CM Reviews
Praise for Sue Farrell Holler and Lacey and the African Grandmothers:
“A beautifully crafted and moving novel, affirming that the ordinary is extraordinary, that every moment is an important moment.” — Judges’ Comments, 2010 Exporting Alberta Awards, Canadian Authors’ Association