It’s on page 158 of Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow. The quote above about how ‘understanding doesn’t fix it.’ It’s one of the most chilling phrases I’ve read. Because it’s true. Just because we might actually understand what the dreadful things in the world today are, doesn’t mean they can – or will be – fixed. And they must be.
Born in an immigration detention centre, Subhi is at least 22 fence diamonds high (and around ten years old). Unlike most of the people in there with him, he’s known no different and has little idea of the world outside. He is a bit of a dreamer and a storyteller, and rather naïve, but also true and brave.
His mother and older sister are there with him, and his best friend Eli. There is one friendly guard, and Subhi has a rubber duck he talks to. The rubber duck talks back, and is occasionally rather wise.
Based on information from many such centres in Australia, this story rings true. Awful, but true.
One day Subhi makes a new friend, Jimmie, a girl living not far from the camp. Their friendship teaches both of them something new, and the reader hopes, a little. It’s a beautiful friendship, but the ugly reality has a way of interfering with most that’s good.
The Bone Sparrow is sweet and wonderful, but possibly the saddest ‘camp’ book I’ve read. Not necessarily the cruellest as regards what happens. But the worst, because I can see no hope.
We’ve come a long way from Anne Holm’s I Am David. The wrong long way.