Monday, November 11, 2019

Orange for the Sunsets

Orange for the Sunsets by Tina Athaide. Grades 4-8. Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 336 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher. 


Asha and Yesofu have been best friends forever, but now that they're twelve, their differences are starting to come between them. Both born in Uganda, Asha is of Indian heritage while Yesofu is African. That means they're from very different social classes - Yesofu's family works for Asha's family - a fact that Asha sometimes seems clueless about. Indians are white collar workers while Africans are manual laborers. Asha lives in a nice house with indoor plumbing while Yesofu lives in a shack and has to fetch water from the well every day. 

When president Idi Amin declares that all Indians have 90 days to leave Uganda, Asha is in denial that anything needs to change. She was born in Uganda and a Ugandan citizen, surely they can't force her to leave her home. But Yesofu is torn - Amin's promise that banishing the Indians will pave the way for a better life for Africans is appealing to him. He would love to have a better life. But does it have to mean that his best friend must leave Uganda forever? 

Based on real events, this is a story about a friendship torn asunder and a country in crisis. 

My thoughts: 

 This is a historical event that I really knew nothing about and I always really appreciate learning more about our world through compelling fiction. Author Tina Athaide was born in Uganda and her family left shortly after Amin made his announcement, so she has experience with this subject as more and more family members showed up on their doorstep in London after they fled. 

The story is told from both Asha's and Yesofu's points of view, alternating chapters between viewpoints, and I think that's really effective at providing more than one view of this event. Both characters grow and change their minds as the story progresses. Asha begins to realize how unfair her treatment of Yesofu has been throughout their friendship - she treated him more like a pet than a true friend - and Yesofu, at first hopeful about the changes that President Amin promises, realizes that there are going to be no easy fixes for his country. Maybe my favorite aspect of the novel is the character development of Yesofu's African friend Akello who is mild mannered at the beginning of the book but progresses down a violent path and eventually joins the soldiers who are beating people in the streets. 

Scenes of violence against Indians are compelling as Asha finds herself in the middle of a riot on India Street and her family is present at a riot at the Uganda - India national cricket match. As time progresses, sections count down from the 90 days Indians were given to leave the country, an effective method of building tension as the deadline looms closer and Asha's family still has not left. 

Back matter includes a timeline of events and an author's note that explains more about why there were so many Indians living in Uganda and gives more details about what happened. 


  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (Kokila, 2018). Young readers interested in kids coping with times of historical political turmoil will enjoy both of these stories. The Night Diary is about the partition of India in the 1940s. 
  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Little, Brown, 2014). Kids face violence as they flee their countries in these historical stories about political upheaval.