The Ghosts and Jamal

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Jamal lives away from a village in West Africa, he is different, people are afraid that his twitching and strange behaviour may be linked to black magic. His Mum has died and his grandfather disappeared with the remains of the palm wine.

The villagers believe Jamal is marked by spirits, which meant that when the village is attacked by terrorists he is left alone and saved. But he is totally alone. Along with his kit bag and copy of The Koran, which was given to him by the Imam who is friendly to him, Jamal sets off away from the village.

Although Jamal finds his grandfather, he sends him away and throws stones at him as he scrambles down the mountain. He is taken in by humanitarian workers who do their best to help and provide him with pills for his epilepsy, but their solution is to send him to an orphanage.

Jamal’s journey goes on, with each place being hard to live in, children knowing Jamal is not quite the same as them. Slowly it appears that Jamal is also autistic. Children and adults in the places where Jamal finds himself, usually end up trying to trick or abuse Jamal, who always has a sense of this but unable to defend himself properly, that is until the end of the story.

This is a great book, quite challenging at times, and brings you directly to life in West Africa and the challenging time for anyone with autism or epilepsy. The concept of bad spirits is pretty frightening and an awareness grows that a sudden epileptic attack could leave Jamal in a very bad place.

But it doesn’t and the surprise at the end of the book is terrific!

The Ghosts and Jamal is written by Bridget Blankley, who spent most of her early life in Nigeria and has an autism spectrum disorder. It is published by HopeRoad Publishing, who work with a focus on West Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, supporting neglected voices.

Sue Martin

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