Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron

Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Book Reviews, Ontario | 0 comments

Cry of GiraffeSummary: Wuditu lives in Ethiopia and is a part of the Beta Israel community with her family. Secure in her family’s love, things begin to change slowly at first when the government orders all adults to be educated, progressing to Wuditu’s family being exiled from Ethiopia. Driven from their homes, Wuditu and her family journey to live in the refugee camps in the Sudan in the hopes to catch an airplane to a new life in Israel. Instead her family gets separated and Wuditu finds herself having to leave her sister behind in the search to reunite with them. On her own, Wuditu goes through terrible things to survive, until a foreigner starts asking after her in town.

Number of Pages: 190

Age Range: 15-17

Review: A harrowing story of adversity and survival, Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron is based on the real life experiences of Oron’s daughter Wuditu (not her real name) and her family’s exile from Ethiopia.

It’s a painful read because Wuditu goes through many events she should never have to face, but my favourite part was the conversation she has with Judie after being reunited with her family. As a devout Jew, Wuditu has trouble facing the things she had to do to survive and what she witnessed, but Judie reassures her that God understands and values human life above all, even when it means breaking the rules to stay alive. I’ve included the conversation in my Memorable Quotes section because Judie’s compassion and understanding at a time when Wuditu was feeling insecure about being able to fit into her family again stuck with me.

Reading often highlights my ignorance about world events and Oron’s book was no exception. Through her writing I learned about the Ethiopia Jewish people who wanted to live in Israel, as well as about the discrimination and blatant ignorance they faced while living there. The story made me want to learn more about the real life events behind the scenes, and I hope Oron writes an autobiographical work next because I would like to read her side of the story too. From the bio I read on her website, she’s led a very interesting life.

With mature themes including the repeated rape and pregnancy of a fourteen year-old, Cry of the Giraffe is for mid to older teen readers.

Memorable Quotes:

“Was I really hearing this – in school? Did even my beloved teacher believe these terrible stories about us? And now he was teaching others to think the same way. How could a learned person do that?” – Wuditu from Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron, page 30

“I felt bad about lying to such a nice woman. I longed to tell her the truth. My lies and my loneliness had become such heavy burdens. But the truth was too dangerous to reveal.” – Wuditu from Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron, page 96

“I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling, but Judie seemed to understand without my saying anything. She took me aside on my last day in Addis. She though for a moment and then said, ‘You do know that whatever was done to you while you were away from your family wasn’t your fault, don’t you?’

I nodded my head, but in my heart I didn’t believe her.

She said, ‘Your people were separated from the rest of the Jews for a long time, and there are some things about our religious laws that have evolved and changed over the years. When you get to Israel, you’ll learn about piku-ach nefesh, the saving of human life. We believe that saving a life is more important than anything else, that it overrides almost every other Jewish law, even the one to keep the Sabbath. All the time that you were away from your family, Sabbath. All the time that you were away from your family, you did everything you could to save your life. Isn’t that right?’

‘That’s true.’ I nodded, for surviving had been my greatest concern.

‘You see – you’ve fulfilled God’s highest law,’ Judie said. ‘Not only should you not be blamed for trying to save your life, but according to our laws, you should be praised for doing so.’

When I though about what she said, it did make me feel a little less ashamed, but I still hoped that God would show me the way to save my good name.” – Conversation between Judie and Wuditu from Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron, pages 182-183

Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron is published by Annick Press, (2010).

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