Many men, women and children seek refuge in Great Britain every year. Some of them, who have come illegally, are rounded up in containment centers, where conditions are poor and the refugees frightened as they await documentation or deportation. Deportation is often a death sentence.
At 16, Little Bee has been living in a containment center for two years, having fled from Nigeria. Since Nigeria is not considered a “hot spot,” Little Bee cannot seek political asylum.
Memories of Nigeria are evoked when Sara, an English woman she had met in Nigeria, reappears in her life.
Sara, a 32-year-old journalist, is married and mother of 4-year-old Charlie. Charlie is also known as Batman since he wears his disguise every day. Sara has two identical Batman outfits for him so she can get one of them clean.
Two years before, when her marriage was faltering, Sara and her husband took a vacation to Nigeria, where they met Little Bee. It was a disastrous encounter, and nothing has been quite right with them ever since. When Little Bee appears in England, so does the spectre of their joint past.
While in the detention center Little
Bee is describing one of her fellow-
refugees. “On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what scar- makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This is our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means I survived.”