Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wowing audiences wherever she goes

Her riveting memoir, The Bite of the Mango, has been called "powerful," "raw" and "inspiring." It has received starred reviews from three of the most influential journals in the United States: Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. But nothing quite prepares audiences for meeting Mariatu Kamara face to face. Her diminutive frame, hip clothes, and especially her radiant smile, seem to surprise those who have read her harrowing story. But once she starts to speak, her physical presence only underlies her message: she is a survivor with a boundless love of life.

Mariatu's speaking and interview schedule would daunt even the most seasoned professional. She has been as far as Vancouver, where she managed to do three school visits in one day. That was followed by a visit to Edmonton where she spoke at the University of Alberta's Festival of Ideas. High schools from as far away as North Carolina have asked if she would come to speak to their students, and whenever possible, Mariatu has readily accepted.

This week, Mariatu spoke at the Toronto Public Library's North Central Branch, where she received a warm welcome from the audience. Happy to answer any questions about her life in Sierra Leone or here in Canada, Mariatu's warmth, optimism and sense of humour draw people to her.

The next few months will continue to be busy for Mariatu as she visits Winnipeg, Halifax and many schools in and around Toronto. A glimpse of her recent appearance in Surrey, B.C., can be found in the Surrey Leader.

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