Tara Sullivan's teen novel The Bitter Side of Sweet is not a romance, not about whites and not about Americans. Rather, it is about fraternal love and sense of responsibility, budding friendship, and child slave labor in the depths of modern day Africa. The brothers Amadou and Seydou along with other boys harvest cocoa by day, are locked up by night, minimally fed, and brutally treated. This novel is not for the faint of heart.
The arrival of a rebellious female, Khadija, on the plantation proves a threat to Amadou's own hard won apathy, and soon becomes a catalyst and ally in his renewed effort to escape. Together this unlikely trio manage to cause a mass exodus from and total mayhem on the plantation. They then must journey home in secret, lest they become recaptured. Their obstacles are many, for they must use their youthful wits when it comes to food, medicine, and a general lack off knowledge of where they are.
As I am wont to do, I chose to read The Bitter Side of Sweet for its foreign language and cultural content and the tough subject it tackles. The author included a glossary of Bambara and French phrases used in this novel and a list of her sources regarding slave labor in the chocolate industry. If you like fiction that is based on current reality, I recommend you join Amadou, Seydou and Kadija in their struggle to survive.
Learn more about child labor in the chocolate industry in this online article by Fortune Magazine Inside Big Chocolate's Child Labor Problem.
For books in the Library's collection about child labor and human trafficking, you can peruse this list:
These titles address child labor and human trafficking.