Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo
I listened to this title and believe the narration added to my enjoyment. Sankofa takes you in to the world of Anna Bain at the moment she discovers her father’s diaries. The thing is, she has never met her father nor had her mother ever told her much about him. The pages she reads in his hand are of a young man from West Africa, a student in London, who experiences racial injustices and inequities while abroad. They paint a romantic picture of her white mother falling in love with her father, a man who returns to Africa, claiming he would return one day. When Anna Bain eventually decides to travel to her father’s homeland to seek him out for herself, he is a much different person. He was the ruler of the country for many decades, ushering the country into independence and in so doing gaining a reputation as harsh and dictatorial. This novel paints many pictures of the man, the most important being the one Anna reconciles in her own mind. It is equally revelatory that discovering who her father is helps profoundly in determining how she will move forward with her own life.
Anna is at a stage of her life when she’s beginning to wonder who she really is. She has separated from her husband, her daughter is all grown up, and her mother—the only parent who raised her—is dead.
Searching through her mother’s belongings one day, Anna finds clues about the African father she never knew. His student diaries chronicle his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London. Anna discovers that he eventually became the president—some would say dictator—of a small nation in West Africa. And he is still alive…
When Anna decides to track her father down, a journey begins that is disarmingly moving, funny, and fascinating. Like the metaphorical bird that gives the novel its name, Sankofa expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present to address universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for a family’s hidden roots.
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