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This stirring novel vividly describes the tragedy of the South African HIV/AIDS crisis through the story of Chanda and her family. As they struggle to exist in unimaginable poverty, the hardship of daily life often defeats Chanda's mother and step-father forcing her to grow up quickly. The grim reality of the unfair world in which they live only worsens when the family is torn apart by AIDS. Fighting against despair, Chanda realizes she must help save her community by conquering fear and prejudice with the truth about secrets that threaten to keep her people powerless forever.
This book provides insight into the human toll of the African AIDS epidemic and would be a valuable addition to Social Studies units that address human rights issues, particularly in relation to poverty and dis-empowerment. Students could research the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa and compare the statistics to other countries while identifying the societal and economic factors that contribute to high rates of infection in the sub-Saharan region.
An important message of the book is that youth can make a difference in fighting the AIDS epidemic. A class could organize a fund-raising campaign on behalf of an organization such as the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Students could also create and post a video targeting youth to raise awareness of AIDS and provide suggestions for action.
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