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Cristina Kessler

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Member Since: Aug, 2000

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No Condition Is Permanent
by Cristina Kessler   

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Books by Cristina Kessler
· Trouble in Timbuktu
· The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela - A Tale from Africa
· One Night: A Story from the Desert
· My Great-Grandmother's Gourd
· Jubela
                >> View all


Young Adult/Teen

Publisher:  Philomel Books ISBN-10:  0399234861 Type: 


Copyright:  January 1, 2000


When Jodie's mother decides they are moving to Sierre Leone, Jodie feels as if her world is falling apart. But she knows her worries are over as soon as she lays eyes on Khadi, a village girl. >From the first moment, the two girls are inseparable--carrying water, collecting firewood, and working in the rice fields together. Everything seems perfect to Jodie until the day the entire village breaks into a wild dance. Suddenly strange things start to happen--Khadi disappears daily, and even Jodie's mother seems nervous. "Secret Society, Jodie. Stay away from it," she warns her. But Jodie wonders what this Society is all about. Surely it can't hurt anyone if she just checks it out. Or can it?

In an unforgettable novel that teems with details of African culture and life, Cristina Kessler heroically tackles one of the most important, most controversial issues for women of our time.

When her anthropologist mom takes an assignment to study African tribal customs, 14-year-old Jodie reluctantly leaves her familiar California home for a tiny village in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Once there, Jodie encounters drenching humid heat, outdoor toilets that must always be checked for snakes and scorpions, and a plethora of new odors, most of them unpleasant. "Trapped between an open sewer and a display of hanging, smelly dried fish, I couldn't resist asking with a gag, 'Are these some of the great new smells you were talking about?'" Despite her culture shock, Jodie manages to make a place for herself in the village, mostly due to her close friendship with Khadi, a local girl her age. Khadi teaches Jodie Krio, the tribal language, and Jodie teaches Khadi how to read. So when Khadi enters a female secret society called Sande, where no "poo-mui" or "white person" is allowed, Jodie's feelings are hurt. Her hurt quickly turns to anger and fear when she learns that the Sande's last rite of passage involves female circumcision. Can Jodi save Khandi from this age-old custom that horrifies her 21st-century sensibilities? Is it even her place to do so?  

Professional Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her first novel, Kessler (One Night) explores sophisticated issues of cultural contrast between life in America and a remote African village through the eyes of a 14-year-old California girl. Providing an educational look into Sierra Leone's traditions and language, the author creates a likeable main character who is realistically headstrong and good-hearted. When Jodie's mother receives a grant to study in Sierra Leone, the girl suddenly finds herself living with snakes and scorpions and without electricity or indoor plumbing. She does find a soulmate in Khadi, a local girl who helps her see the beauty of the village and the culture ("Having Khadi, who I could barely talk to, hold my hand, as we walked past huts and goats seemed totally natural"). But when Khadi comes of age and is inducted into the women's Secret Society, which practices female circumcision, Jodie must decide whether or not to interfere. She wants to spare Khadi the pain (and possibility of infection or even death) but knows that getting involved might alienate her from her friend and banish her and her mother from their community. Jodie's observations of life in Sierra Leone occasionally read like exoticism ("Khadi, bare-breasted as usual and dripping wet, looked like a picture out of an art book"), and the ending, though realistic, comes a bit abruptly. Overall, the novel does a solid job of combining a complicated issue with a compelling plot. Ages 10-14.

Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up-Jodie Nichols, 14, leaves California and accompanies her mother, a former Peace Corps volunteer, on her return to her old village in Sierra Leone to do fieldwork. The simple life, without modern conveniences and modern choices, turns out to be difficult and strenuous. The Krio language is an early barrier, but Jodie learns quickly, as will readers who may find the dialect difficult at first. Khadi, a village girl her age, becomes a close friend, but refuses to explain the Secret Society that begins to claim her time and attention. Jodie's mother and the villagers are united in warning her away from this taboo subject, but Jodie persists. Finally, her mother explains. It's a year for girls of the village to go through a coming-of-age ceremony that includes ritual circumcision. Appalled, Jodie determines to save her friend. Ignoring her mother's pleas and the many times she has learned that American ways are not African ways, she follows Khadi to the secret meeting place and interrupts a dance. As a result, she and her mother are forced to flee. The setting of this story comes alive; the early vivid jumble of details of sights and smells sorts itself out into a careful, clear description of a vibrant culture. Yet, the conclusion, which will satisfy readers, is too simplistic for the issue; Khadi later writes that she and her friends will not continue the age-old practice on their daughters. There is much to appreciate in this sensitively drawn picture of a faraway part of the world and readers will be left with much to think about in terms of cultural relativity.

Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC

Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

By a reader
Cristina Kessler's NO CONDITION IS PERMANENT is in the same spirit of her first book, ONE NIGHT; a tale well told. Her book reflects an increasingly shrinking world where western values clash with older, more rooted rituals, where one viewpoint is inherently different from another. Kessler tackles the difficult subject of female circumcision with clarity and understanding of only someone who has lived in West Africa. The frustrations that accompany this situation are transcended by a heartfelt friendship. NO CONDITION IS PERMANENT is a well-developed story that kept this reader's interest from the first page to the last.

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Reader Reviews for "No Condition Is Permanent"

Reviewed by John Coppolella 7/18/2010
I know the issues in a world gone mad are personified in Sierra Leone on microcosm. There are those there who have looked into the face of evil and not blinked. I know this because my friend Mariatu is from there and is one of those amazingly special individuals who survived the terrible civil war, though not without personal loss and mind numbing memories of the atrocities inflicted on her and her loved ones there. I learn about how to be a better human from her. I am proud to call Mariatu from Sierra Leone my friend.
Reviewed by Jackson Aniefiok 6/30/2009
Your review is interesting, i believe that you are a great writer, and I am glad that you are followiing your dreams. Thanks for your love for the third world countries and your humaniterian work.
Reviewed by Cristina Kessler 9/28/2004
Although I was criticized for using Krio I would write it exactly the same way if I had to do it again. I wanted to take my reader to Africa rather than take Africa to my reader. Also, the topic is important for kids as American classrooms become more diverse every year with kids from other countries. I hope that this book will encourage my readers to offer a hand in friendship to these kids that could be reeling from culture shock as new students in America. Some may even be facing circumcision, for although they have left their homeland their parents have most likely brought their traditional customs with them.

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