Auma's Long Run

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Aug 2017

Member Reviews

An incredible read. A book that I bought, recommend, and share. 

In 1980's Kenya, 13-year-old Auma wants answers: Why is her father not returning to his job in the city? What is causing this mysterious illness that people in the village call Slim? Why is her mother silent and withdrawn after taking Auma's father to the doctor? The one place where Auma can get answers is school, a place where the teachers are strict (students get hit with a cane in the back of the legs if they are late, "no excuses" is the rule), but at least they give the students accurate information about the transmission and inevitable course of AIDS. Auma faces the daily struggle of keeping her siblings in school and alive after the suffering and deaths of first her father and then her mother. Auma and her mother have their most difficult, honest, and courageous conversation near the end of her mother's life.

The author, Eucabeth A. Odhiambo, draws from her own experiences and her work with children affected by AIDS in Kenya. She calls these children heroes, and children like Auma have the fortitude and courage to survive and to keep their siblings alive as well. My hope is that Odhiambo continues writing Auma's story and that we find out if she fulfills her dream to become a doctor dedicated to helping her people fight AIDS.

Odhiambo's writing is genuine, clear, even. We get a clear sense of the struggles that children and women face in a society that gives them few options, but the story is uplifting.  Auma relies on her best friend, her grandmother, and other women in the community to prevail in getting an education and a track scholarship. 

Worth every penny.
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Did establish strong emotions and was character driven, however, I just couldn't get my head into it for some reason. Perhaps, it happened because of my lack of liking for the writing.
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This is one of those rare, precious stories that stays with you long after you close the cover.  It affected me so profoundly that I had to put it aside for months after my initial read through so that I could return and review it properly...but then I am sensitive to the subject because I have lost loved ones to the scourge of AIDS.  

Young Auma has dreams of winning a track scholarship to attend high school, with hopes of eventually becoming a doctor and finding a way to both exit a life of poverty and help those she loves.  Her life is thrown into disarray when she discovers her father is dying of a strange new illness that is, in the minds of those around her, tied to sin and immorality.  Soon her entire village has to face the evils this illness brings and plunges into the perpetual darkness of fear and mourning - but Auma, in her struggle to comprehend and overcome these horrors, somehow manages to rise above and do what's best for her family by finding hope.

This is a very powerful story and I strongly recommend it, particularly for the benefit of young people who might not understand how AIDS not only destroyed individual lives, but changed the entire world.
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Young adult novels about kids from different cultures lend themselves to teaching the writing of comparison contrast essays.  Depending on the students’ level of sophistication, the essay can range from a simple four paragraph essay to a fully developed paper, where each topic is explored in great detail. As students are reading their novel, they should be noting similarities and differences between their own culture and the culture represented in the book. This month I am recommending three books that would lend themselves to this project. Auma's Long Run by Ecabeth Odhiambo chronicles the story of a young girl growing up during the AIDS crisis in Kenya.  You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins is a multi-generational story that captures the immigrant experience of an Indian-American family. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson explores the conflicts felt by an African America girl who is a scholarship student at an elite private school in Portland. 

Set in a Kenyan Village during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s,  Auma's Long Run is about a 13-year-old track star, who dreams of becoming a doctor.  After her parents die of the affliction, Auma is left with the responsibility of caring for her family.  Feeding her siblings and grandmother becomes more important than track practice and good grades, even though she is hoping to get a track scholarship to continue her education and follow her dreams.  The author draws from her own experiences of growing up in Kenya at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, in this poignant exploration of a girl conflicted between family responsibilities and her desire to find a cure for the disease that is killing her people.
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This is the book I have been waiting for. A few years ago I was disappointed by a book that promised to show the hardships African girls have to face in order to receive an education. This has everything that I expected from that much-lauded book and more. Auma faces the challenges I have read about in nonfiction books about African females, but they are set in a framework that--even though there serious topics are discussed--makes it accesible for middle school students.
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What a great book! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is written in an informative and sensitive manner. 
The book is set int he 1980s when very little was known about AIDS & HIV. The story is based around a Kenyan community stricken with the disease & a family who are learning to live with its consequences. The main character of Auma is trying to come to terms with growing up, wanting an education & looking after her family through an array of hard times. 
The book is written for a young audience but I suggest KS3 as the ideal age group. It deals with the issues of a girl in Africa growing up as well as family matters such as death. 
A real page turner!
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The author, Eucabeth A. Odhiambo  grew up in Kenya in the 80's and 90's and knows the culture first hand. She states culture varies village to village, but this book is a good representation of life in parts of Africa. The story points out how and not in your face manner, much we have and how little we must do to have the basics needs for life. To them a rare luxury is a piece of fish, soap, or a a sweet treat called nuguru. Nuguru is caramel -flavoured unrefined sugar made from the juices of crushed sugarcane. 

There is something going on in the little Koromo village. We learn of the tragedy through Auma’s eyes. This is the dawn of the AIDS epidemic and no one really knows what to do for those infected. They are stigmatised and doomed to a endure slow and painful death.

The villagers call the disease “Slim” and believe it only affects “sinners”. But why are so many innocent folks dying, even young children. It is all so confusing for the villagers. There is a witch doctor in the village. Auma's family practice a strong Christian faith and believe the witch doctor is simply an evil unit in their midst. Auma's faith is shaken after close loved ones get sick and she visits the witch doctor in a desperate attempt to save them. This was a creepy depiction and I'm sure realistic view into the witch doctor's hut. 

This  book puts the reader right there in the small, tight, African village called Koromo. The  days are spent cleaning, collecting, gathering the supplies needed to sustain life in a most basic way. School is valued, but there is a monetary cost to attend. One also must pass tests to advance to the next level.  Students are punished often with canning for infractions of simply being  late. Females are treated harshly by male teachers. 

Females are expected to marry at a young age and begin having children and living a life of hard labour. This is not for Auma. She wants to get an education and become a doctor. She plans to return to Koromo with a cure to save her people. She avoids boys at all costs in the attempt to avoid marriage. Auma's parents support this dream, but not her traditional grandmother. 

It is heart breaking to watch the odds stack up against Auma. She remains determined to obtain her education but can she  now, that she is the provider for her 3 younger siblings and grandmother. 

Auma’s Long Run will not only warm the heart. It will open the eyes of the reader to the privileges most enjoy with very little sacrifice. I highly recommend this book; with its simple text and thoughtfulness, Auma’s Long Run is a story that I believe will stay with the reader for a long while, and maybe even spark interest in learning more about this continent. 

This is a terrific story with an unforgettable protagonist.

Auma's quote: I won’t let you down, Mama. And I won’t let myself down.
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Auma is a 13-year-old girl growing up in a Luo village in Kenya at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Her family has always struggled with paying expenses, even with her dad's good job in the city. Auma dreams of getting a running scholarship to a local high school, her only chance of being able to afford higher education and avoid being trapped in marriage at a young age. Then her dad returns home one day, unscheduled, and stays in his room, growing weaker and weaker. Meanwhile, in Auma's village, more people are dying. What is causing the epidemic? Can Auma get a scholarship to continue her education? Will she be able to become a doctor one day to save her village?

Auma's story is a fictionalized account of what it was like growing up in a Luo village in the 1980s. The author's personal experience of growing up Luo makes this story come alive. The fear of an unknown disease spreading throughout the village is tempered with Auma's courage and determination to make a better life for her and her family.

This book is highly recommended to all middle grade, high school, and adult readers, and especially those readers who like historical fiction and stories about what it is like to grow up in Kenya.

Thank you to Lerner Publishing and Carolrhoda Books for offering this advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Haunting but inspirational, AUMA'S LONG RUN reminds readers that the world is bigger than what we can see, and that challenges are profoundly different throughout the world.

Thanks to the publisher for the signed galley of this title provided through a giveaway.
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I highly recommend Auma's Long Run by Eucabeth Odhiambo: Beautiful historical fiction about resilience, family, loss, & racing after your dreams! 

I am looking forward to sharing this story set in Kenya during the AIDS epidemic with my students throughout the school year and discussing it with colleagues at our staff book club in March!
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http://lowereastsidelibrarian.info/reviews/odhiambo/aumaslongrun
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This book is set in the 1980's in Kenya where AIDS is beginning to take the lives of many who live in Auma's village. Auma, 13 years old and an amazing runner, dreams of attending high school, but when illness strikes her family she must also take on the responsibility of caring for her siblings. This will be an eye-opening book for young readers as it shows how children in another part of the world live. I was completely absorbed in Auma's story and gained some insight myself into how the AIDS epidemic was perceived by those affected by it in Africa. Although the topic is heavy, inspiration can be found in Auma's courage and determination.
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Auma loves to run. She has big dreams to win a track scholarship so she can attend high school and then maybe even become a doctor. She doesn’t want the same life as many of the other girls in her small Kenyan village who marry young and dropout of school. She’s determined to fight for something better. But when a weird new sickness called AIDS starts killing people in her village, Auma’s dreams start slipping away. She wants to do whatever she can to help her struggling family, but is giving up on her dreams the answer?

I absolutely love Auma. She is so brave and determined. She knows there is more she can offer to this world than the low expectations her culture has for girls. She is passionate about using her education to help make a difference in her village, which is why she so desperately wants to be a doctor.Her conviction about what she can offer the world is inspiring. Even though Auma faces one difficult challenge after another, she refuses to give up. 

Auma’s Long Run is an emotional and captivating story that sheds light on the harsh realities, misconceptions, fears, and confusion of the 1980s AIDS epidemic in Africa. At the time very little was known about this new disease, and the deaths resulting from it left many unanswered questions. Like Auma, many children were left with the responsibility of being the family caretaker. In the author’s note, Odhiambo writes, “I wanted to honor the resilience of HIV/AIDS orphans, many of whom overcame trauma to grow up to be successful adults but have no platform to tell their stories.”

Verdict: Auma’s resilience, determination, and ability to overcome overwhelming odds make this a must read.
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Eucabeth Odhiambo grew up in Kenya.  While she now lives in Pennsylvania, where she teaches in the teacher education department of Shippensburg University, she returns to her home country in her debut novel, Auma's Long Run.  Auma is a teenager in rural Kenya whose village is being ravaged by AIDS.  She is torn between her responsibility to her family and her desire to become a doctor. 


In many ways, Auma is just like girls anywhere in the world.  But her lifestyle is foreign to most Western readers.  She has to walk to the stream to fetch water, she lives in a mud house with no electricity or indoor plumbing, and has cows in the yard.  Her father works in Nairobi and sends money home to the family.  Everything changes when he arrives home earlier than expected.  Soon both he and Auma's mother have died of AIDS.


Auma loves to run and has become a local star, winning most of her races.  She wants to earn a scholarship for her running so she can study to become a doctor.  With her parents' sickness, her mother's efforts to marry her off, and her responsibilities caring for her younger siblings, it starts looking like she won't get to follow her dreams.


Auma's Long Run is a touching story that brings the realities of poverty and sickness in rural Kenya into focus, personalizing village life in a way that statistics and new items can't.  The target audience may be young girls, but boys and adults will be enriched and will enjoy this story of Auma's coming of age in Africa.


Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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Auma is living a pretty fortunate life in a village in Kenya during the 1980s. Her father has a nice job in Nairobi which allows him to not only bring presents home to the family from time to time but also allows Auma and her siblings to go to school.  But when he comes home unexpectedly, he is suffering from an undisclosed illness that only seems to be getting worse.  Lots of people have been dying in Auma's village which furthers her desire to become a doctor and find a cure for this new disease.  When her mother falls ill as well, Auma searches for a cure and is eventually left in the care of her grandmother.  Thanks for Auma's running, she is able to earn a scholarship to attend high school, believing an education is the only way to make her life and her family's life better.  Auma's Long Run is honest, heartbreaking, and powerful account of Kenya during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Author Eucabeth A. Odhiambo draws from her own experiences, growing up in Kenya in the '80s and '90s during the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis, to present a spirited  protagonist who questions the way things are done in their village.
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I received an ARC of Auma's Long Run through NetGalley. I chose to request this book because I was looking for some diverse middle grade fiction and the blurb caught my interest.

This book is #ownvoices for Kenyan representation.

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Wow. This book is really heavy, it doesn't try to make the situation around AIDS seem better than it was. The story takes place around the time in which AIDS started to spread in Kenya.

The women and men are treated very differently in Auma's village. Auma wants to become a doctor, but that dream seems far away, since she's a girl, and some people think she should be getting married instead. Her comments about sexism are something that will make you laugh and frown; laugh because they're quite sarcastic, and frown because you want to help her out of the respective situation. One part that I liked a lot is where she contemplated whether men that cry are weak or if they're actually the stronger ones.

Throughout the story, while growing up, Auma realises that sometimes adults don't know all of the answers. I think that any middle-grader can profit from reading about Auma's realisation, because it's something that children usually aren't told. Sometimes adults won't know the answer, and you, as a child, could find it out before the adults. Adults aren't always correct even if they say they are.

There was an interesting scene about begging and the misconceptions about being a beggar. I thought this was a great addition to an already very educational book.

While Auma is studying for school and a chance to acheive her dreams, more people have been getting sick due to unknown causes. I thought it was really interesting that the villagers called this illness Slim and not AIDS. I've never thought about what people who were affected by AIDS called the disease before it was called AIDS.

I wish there had been more scenes with Abuya, a classmate of Auma's, as I feel like we only caught glimpses of his situation and never fully knew how he felt about certain things.

I thought it was interesting how the daily routine of running to school ended up  being one the main things that influenced her life. I liked that the author kept it as one of the main plotlines and that it tied up with the ending. The ending was beautiful, it's an open ending but I feel like there is one highly possible conclusion to Auma's trip and the ending I'm imagining is a lovely conclusion to the story.

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I very much recommend reading this book. It's suitable for middle-grade readers, and I thought that the writing was age-appropriate. Some of the scenes are very heavy though, so if you feel like you might not be ready for it, then I would suggest not reading it or waiting for a while. This is a book that would benefit from an in-depth discussion, which is why I would suggest it for a children's book club or a voluntary classroom/library group read.

Auma's Long Run is the kind of book that I'm thinking of when I talk about books that educate through fiction. Readers will follow this captivating story and only realise afterwards that they have been received knowledge while reading.

Trigger warning: physical abuse, death, AIDS, terminal illness.
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Auma's Long Run transports the reader to a Kenya where people are just discovering and coming to grips with the AIDS epidemic. Auma, in contrast to most of her classmates, looks beyond a career as a farmer or wife and dreams of being a doctor. It's part of why she works to understand why so many people are dying and what can be done. The book tackles poverty, limited opportunities for women, but also celebrates family and community and perseverance. The author did a good job of putting us in that setting, so that even though it is not my own culture, I could relate. Characters are well thought out and multi faceted. Auma is not only a dutiful daughter and student but a runner and someone who wishes to go back to being a child. Her friends and classmates experience grief, taunting, romantic feelings, and moments of laughter, just like teens here. I recommend this story especially to middle grade and teen readers who want a new perspective. I received an advance copy through Netgalley.
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Auma and her siblings, Juma, Musa, and Baby, live in a village where the cries of mourning are all too familiar. Many of the adults of the village are dying - but no one can understand why. Abeth, Auma's best friend, has already lost both of her parents. When their father comes home from the capital sick, their lives begin to change. They do not realize how drastic that change will one day become. School has always been a safe place for Auma and being part of the track team brings her joy. However, with so many drastic and difficult changes in her life, she must choose what is most important and strive to care for their family in this tumultuous time. When her school teacher tells them about a new disease called AIDS, Auma's passion to become a doctor is only heightened, but with so much need at home, what is best? Auma needs to work hard and be brave to give her siblings a shot at a good future, doesn't she?

Auma's Long Run is a book worth reading. Eucabeth Odhiambo's story rings true. It isn't a story that I wanted to read, but it was a story that I needed to read. It is a story that we all need to read. I cried as I read, and my heart hurt for Auma and her family as they faced what was inevitable. Although Auma's story is fictional, it is reality for many boys and girls in Africa where AIDS has ravaged the population and left the very old and the young to scrounge out a meager living. For some the facts about Africa's AIDS crisis have become daily knowledge. This book however brings the problem to life. In my cozy apartment stocked with food aplenty, I needed to be reminded that for many in this world their lives look very different. Thank you, Eucabeth Odhiambo, for this book and for giving us a glimpse into this corner of our big world. 

This book was provided through NetGalley and Lerner Publishing Group's Carolhoda Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions contained above are my own.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book for review.

This was a very good debut story, clearly written by someone who knows what she's writing about (as the author note states, she was in Kenya in the 80's during the start of the AIDS epidemic.) It's not an easy read - heartbreaking at times, but also hopeful. The characters are well written. The culture in Africa during this time period really came to life. Quite a lot to discuss if read by kids - everyone had to pay to go to school, HIV/AIDS and how it was perceived in Africa vs. here in the US/Western world, poverty/hunger and how it affects families, the pervasive misogynistic culture...the list is long. The story overall is well done. I do think that the writing seemed a bit simplistic (middle-grade-ish) considering I feel the topics make it more for teens, but overall well done and I am glad I read this.
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Amazing debut novel.

Auma's family has enough to get along in her Kenyan village, enough even to help out the community by regularly donating goods and money for the good of all.  However, Auma's dreams take her outside of her small village and her hopes lie in her running ability.  She dreams of becoming a doctor and taking that knowledge back to her village to save all those who die so young of unnamed illnesses.  However, when a mysterious new disease, later to be named as HIV/AIDS, strikes her family, they must rally together just to make ends meet.  Will this ruin Auma's chances to leave the community and become a doctor or will she find a way to carry on?

This novel is packed with courage and perseverance, grief and triumph, dreams realized and dreams unheard.

Auma's Long Run is a spectacular novel for kids to read not only to understand the roots of the HIV/AIDS epidemic but to develop empathy and put themselves into someone else's shoes.  The lives of these Kenyan children is so drastically different than many of the lives American students have.  While we all have our trials, few rival those of Auma and her family yet they all find a way to stay determined and continue on.  We can all learn a lot from this young lady and Ms. Odhiambo's fresh, authentic voice rings true as she tells Auma's story.  A must read!!
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