Noo Saro-Wiwa, 2012
Noo Saro-Wiwa has more reasons than most to feel ambivalent about the country of her birth. Given that, in the tradition of expats/exiles/diasporans everywhere she’s also very much from but not of her homeland, this would make for an interesting and conflicted read anyway; the murder of her father obviously contributes to that in a way I’m not wholly sure I can isolate, nor am I convinced it’s worthwhile trying to do so.
While it certainly stands up as a simple travelogue, that tension regarding notions of belonging was the most interesting part of the book for me. Let me be clear, I’m certainly not criticizing her for how she has accommodated the competing imperatives of the cultures she claims attachment to (she grew up and was educated in England), but for me, as the father of children who will also grow up in not dissimilar circumstances, it was a very affecting read.
Laced throughout the book are recollections of previous trips she and her siblings took to Nigeria with their father who would, it seems, attempt to emotionally bludgeon them into accepting and appreciating that aspect of their cultural background. That it didn’t always work out as he would have wished is definitely something for me to consider when my kids get a little older. It seems it wasn’t a totally wasted effort, but it also looks like I shouldn’t be expecting any seeds I plant to be germinating any time soon.