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  • Gaili Schoen

Sankofa


“A sense of rightness, a sense of self. It was nothing when you had it. You hardly noticed. But once it was missing, it was like a sliver of fruit on a long sea voyage, the difference between bleeding gums and survival.”

Forty-something Anna has grown up biracial in London, never knowing her African father. After her mother's death, Anna find's her father's diary and learns that he returned to his small African country called Bamana (a fictitious West African nation) without ever knowing that his white girlfriend was pregnant. Anna has a grown daughter named Rose, and has separated from her white husband Robert due to his infidelity. She decides to travel to Bamana to meet her father, who was a former rebel and president of the country. Rose believes that Anna is just running away from making decisions about her marriage, but Anna has longed to know her father her whole life, and boldly makes her way to Bamana.


As one might guess, Anna's father is shocked to meet her. At first he rejects her paternity claim, but when he realizes that Anna is not seeking him out for gain and is truly his daughter, he sets out to both impress her, and teach her the realities of living in a small, precarious African country.

“The world will always have people like this, trying to press guilt on you, forcing pamphlets with gory pictures into your hands, holding you personally accountable for wars, famines, genocides. Why not be of use to those around you?”

I enjoyed listening to Sankofa, and though it occasionally seemed to lag and lack details about Bamana, I found it to be a fascinating story about the politics of small African countries, and about biracial displacement. Author Chibundu Onuzo was born in Lagos and was the only black student at an all-girls boarding school in London from age 14, so the story feels authentic. Sankofa is a gritty but beautifully told story, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about issues facing biracial children, or about African politics.


Hardcover 304 pages, Audiobook 9 hours





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