No Laughter Hereby Rita Williams-Garcia Published 23 Dec 2003
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Even though they were born in different countries, Akilah and Victoria are true best friends. But Victoria has been acting strange ever since she returned from her summer in Nigeria, where she had a special coming-of-age ceremony. Why does proud Victoria, named for a queen, slouch at her desk and answer the teacher's questions in a whisper? And why won't she laugh with Akilah anymore? Akilah's name means "intelligent," and she is determined to find out what's wrong, no matter how much detective work she has to do. But when she learns the terrible secret Victoria is hiding, she suddenly has even more questions. The only problem is, they might not be the kind that have answers. In this groundbreaking novel, Coretta Scott King Honor winner Rita Williams-Garcia uses her vividly realistic voice to explore an often taboo practice that affects millions of girls around the world every year. Readers will identify with headstrong, outspoken Akilah, whose struggle to understand what's happened to Victoria reveals a painful truth in an honest and accessible way.
"No Laughter Here" Reviews
I loved the creativity of all the characters, but especially Akilah and her "girl warrior" attitude! She reminds me of one of my students. I also truly enjoyed how up-to-date the book was with surfing on the Internet, having an international student population, instant messaging, etc. It provided a realistic contrast to what many believe is not modern – female genital mutilation. Williams-Garcia approaches this topic with honesty, but in a delicate way. I also really liked Ms. Saunders, the teacher, who encourages Akilah to be the person she knows she is. The teacher's faith in Akilah shows the positive influence that teachers can have, especially when they truly know their students. Another topic that is broached is friendship and I think the author's idea of a difference between a "best friend" and a "true friend" is important for girls in this age group. The book says it is intended for grades 7 and up and I assume that is more for the content than the readability.
As quick of a read as it is, this book had me feeling feelings I didn't think were possible in a YA novel. I loved the "girl warrior" narrator, Akilah's unwavering faithfulness to her BFF Victoria. And the way that Rita Williams-Garcia wrote the dialogue made me feel like I could here exactly what each character was saying. It is the kind of book that a middle-schooler needs to be prepared for, but I would absolutely recommend it to my students.
This book was informative, to say the least. I would have loved to know at least how the girls were a voice and change.
The story of inseparable friends after one of them travels to Africa and is genitally mutilated (without her knowledge that it was going to happen).
This was a short book, so it was a quick read for me, but its message didn't fall very flat and the subject was still handled maturely and with care.
Akilah is a very sweet, bright, and high-spirited girl who is waiting impatiently -- as all children are apt to do-- for the return of her very dear friend and neighbor, Victoria, who has been on a trip to Nigeria in order to see her family. Victoria and her family are -- from what you can gather -- really tied to their 'African roots'...
But when Victoria returns, Akilah notices something odd.. different.. off about her dear friend: She doesn't smile anymore, she doesn't participate in class; she only nods and stares straight ahead when anyone talks to her... Akilah is determined to find out the reason why, and the truth is something that no child wants to experience, let alone be aware of, especially at middle school age...
This book deals with the unfortunate phenomenon that is FGM or Female Genital Mutilation, also known as Female Circumcision. It is an 'operation' performed on girls as young as nine years old, or whenever they reach around puberty age, as a 'rite of passage'.
It is done in at least 23 different countries in the continent of Africa, and this gruesome and morbid custom has also been -- believe or not-- carried over into the United States, where it has actually performed HERE.
Here is a diagram (put in spoilers to prevent offending anyone.. don't worry, it's just a drawing):
The mother I really loved, because -- I'm sorry if I seem racist -- but it seems the African Americans and Caucasians are very prone to beating their children as a form of punishment. Not all Caucasians do so (my mom does.. but she hasn't slapped or spanked me since I was 12... Always a chance though >_> <_< ) so it was a nice change of pace to see a black mother who didn't call for a belt or switch or paddle or whatever. It was because she worked as a Social Worker..
All-in-all, this is a good book for those who want to ease into the serious taboo issue that is FGM without being flooded with the super-emotional aspect as well as the no-doubt heated debate b/w traditionalists wanting circumcision and those who find it barbaric ...
In my opinion, ANY ritual or rite of passage or whatever that involves hurting an innocent child or mutilating someone against their will or practically killing someone is barbaric and cruel and should not be condoned, no matter what the excuse. I don't care if you're white, black, asian, indian, Native Amerindian/First Nation/Aborigine... it's not cool and it's not right.
No Laughter Here:
In this eye opening, realistic fiction novel; the author Coretta Scott King Honor winner Rita Williams-Garcia author uses her graphic, realistic voice very well and allows the reader to explore the culture and practices of Nigeria go through a heart-breaking journey of Victoria. On pg. 72 it says, " I still did not know what happened to me. I did not remember coming back from Grandmother's house. I called for my mother. She helped me to the bathroom. I could barely stand. She had to hold me when I squatted. My ghost body fled, and my real body returned. When the pee came out of me I screamed, I was being burned alive, but there were no flames creeping up my legs. For weeks and weeks I stood in a pot of fire". This quote allows the reader to visualize and feel the excruciating pain Victoria felt after going through female genital mutilation.
The author also uses a bitter tone toward Victoria's mother. This is well demonstrated on page 71 where it says, " I thought how could my mother make us do something so horrible the doctor could lose his license?" Victoria was forced and basically tricked into going to see this doctor. She resented her mother for letting the doctor go through with this sexual disturbance knowing that it was illegal.
I can definitely see myself using this book to have the students learn about different cultures and how some of the practices in other countries involve cruelty and violation. This book will also teach the students about the use of imagery in their writing so the reader can visualize what is happening. The students will read this book and not be able to take their eyes off of it because of the intensity and descriptive text. This book also teaches honesty and survival and the question of secrecy.