Fabio Geda presents the true story of Enaiatollah (Enaiat) Akbari’s early teen years as a novel in the tradition of Dave Eggers’ What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel (McSweeney’s, 2006).
In the Sea There are Crocodiles is told in the voice of its subject. Enaiat, abandoned at age 10, survives through hard work (taking often dangerous or illegal jobs), the unexpected generosity of strangers, determination and optimism. Not only does he survive, he makes his way to Europe, where he can resume a more normal life, including attending school.
This slim book was originally published in Italy, where it was a bestseller. It delivers a powerful story, one that Booklist agrees is “ideally suited for young adults.”
GEDA, Fabio. In the Sea There Are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari. tr. from Italian by Howard Curtis. 176p. Doubleday. 2011. Tr $21.95. ISBN 978-0-385-53473-4. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–Geda recounts the harrowing story of Akbari’s years from age 10 to 15. In the early 1990s, Enaiatollah’s mother, fearing the Taliban, took her son from Afghanistan to Pakistan and abandoned him. So began his arduous journey to gain political asylum. Spending time in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Greece, he was the victim of a whole host of unscrupulous men. The hardships he faced were staggering–for example, after 27 days traveling across the snowy, rugged mountains of Turkey (after being told it would take 3 days), 50 or so survivors were smashed together in the false bottom of a truck where they could not move for 3 days. Finally, in Turin, Akbari was introduced to a family who offered to foster him and help him gain asylum. Throughout his remarkable journey, though he was shown little kindness, his resourcefulness and determination did not waver. After meeting Geda at a book presentation, Akbari asked him to tell his story so that others might better understand what he suffered. Together they reconstructed his experiences and Geda retells the story as it was told to him, thus it is considered fiction. The prose is straightforward, engaging, and at times almost conversational. Teens will marvel at Akbari’s courage and resilience.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA