Bingo’s Run by James A. Levine, Spiegel & Grau, 287 pages
When an American author’s portrayal of his third-world protagonist seems patronizing, is this an example of cultural insensitivity on the writer’s part or excessive sensitivity on the reader’s? James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, adopted the voice of a 15-year-old Mumbai girl sold into sexual slavery in his first book, The Blue Notebook. In Bingo’s Run, his hero is another 15-year-old in desperate circumstances: Bingo Mwolo, a drug runner in Nairobi’s infamous Kibera slums and the archetypal lovable rogue. Despite the author/physician’s professional familiarity with the plight of impoverished youth, his portrayal of Bingo feels contrived and inauthentic because of the simplistic, even blithe, representation of the struggle and misery such a character would encounter in daily life.
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