My American Dream has Died

When I was a child my TV
showed US shows each day to me
Sold US dreams to this
Black British
Young girl and won me over easily
Because I watched, I wanted prom
Wanted to call my mother “mom”
To cheer lead dancing with a Pom Pom
To me you see
The U.S. was where I belonged
If given the choice where to reside
Bel air, Beverley Hills or Bayside
Who cares
I’d have better hair
And white teeth
Like all Americans who live there
I’d go to the mall, hang out at the beach
Life in America would be peachy

That’s what I’d see
When closing my eyes and California Dreaming

That dream has been cut short

By the sound of black voices screaming

I was late
To read the words that graced
The pages of Haley’s story
For my unexposed mind, this was gory
My eyes spilled metaphorical tears
For a people stolen, brutalised, the worst of all fears
Realised
DeGruy is right
That the trauma is still alive
My American Dream was beginning to die

Feelings of heaviness inside
How can a people live with this past
With this pain
With this knowledge that your blood spilled
Was their gain
You weren’t human in their eyes
My American Dream began to die

And then Obama
They’ve come so far
The most powerful man
And he’s black like me
“We don’t see colour, look at Obama. See?”
Yet to to make black lives matter
Powerless is he.
I was not fooled
But still fooled to believe
That racism was only in the awards blacks didn’t receive
Was only in parts on screen they could never play
America was still a place to travel to some day

The trouble is
Now we have technology
Camera phones that record and see
What the overseers, sorry officers
Don’t want anyone to see
Thank God for passers by
Now the world can see what America would like to hide
You still want black labour,
So you put blacks in jail
You still want to be Massa
white supremacy prevails
It was not a crime then for a slave to be killed
And still now you murder blacks as you will
Instead of serving time
You hit the big time
Get lauded as a king
Or sheltered under the Roof of a Burger King

I’m no longer dreaming, I will stay woke
It is sad to say, I can’t see a day
That the dream MLK spoke
Of will ever come to pass
Blacks still being pushed
To the bottom of the class
When it comes to wealth and healthcare
They’re still coming last
The whites have the gall to put “immigrants” on blast
You are also an immigrant have you forgotten your past?
But for the blacks it’s
Not so much California, but Compton
But even when the blacks
Do live in a nice neighbourhood
The whites believe blacks are no good
“This is our swimming pool
Stay out of our spaces
Or we will call the cops
But don’t you dare call us racist”
Yes Amerikkka; the police man of the world
Allows its own police force
To assault innocent young black girls
As I watch the whitewashed media spin
It sinks in
From the beginning
The dream was never for those with melanin

I now watch Amerikkka through cynical eyes
Death in police custody is followed by lies
Lies followed by victim blaming
And shaming
No justice for black bodies
Just more hashtag naming
Everyday a new hashtag
The world ignores Amerikkka’s genocide
But not I
I dare not step foot on that blood soaked stolen soil
Lest I die
(If I do I did not commit suicide)

To express what has been implied:
My American Dream has died

Book Review: A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

I read about this book in a Newspaper and the way in which it was described drew me in. I recall, it was said to be a book about exploring the differences in culture between the Nigerian protagonist and those she comes into contact with within her Western environment. I bought the book with an expectation of something Americanh-ish. I think part of my problem is that I have been spoilt by Chimananda, and now expect all African writers to sound like her.

Well, Atta does not sound anything like Adichie, and that in and of itself is not a criticism of Atta. I’ll start with some positives.  I like that the main character’s name is not introduced until she is addressed by another character and we learn her name is Deola. Up until that point she is only referred to as “she”.

Deola is in her late 30s, single. This information is provided to the reader, but other aspects of her character, who she really is, remained somewhat of a mystery. She works for an international charity in London, but visits “home” which is Lagos for her late father’s memorial. Some of her thoughts and dilemmas seem more typically associated with an adolescent. I can understand this is some way, because in some West African culture, a woman has not truly become a woman until she is married with children. Yet I found it hard to connect her thoughts and feeling to that of a woman of her age and stage in life. Deola clearly has dissatisfaction with her life in London, but the reason for this is not made entirely clear.

What is clear is Deola’s love hate relationship with religion, and Christianity in particular. Now this touched a nerve with me because of the sweeping generalisations made about the Faith. Again though, I have understanding as to why “African Christianity” is criticised because I know from experience how distorted it is from the Christianity of the bible. Religion is certainly a theme in this novel, but I was not expecting it to be tackled in a way that could be seen scornful and disrespectful.

In terms of some of the other themes explored, I found myself asking at one point, is this a book about HIV and Aids? A bit like the MTV series “Shuga” based in Nigeria, (where almost every character either had HIV, or was about to catch it), was the thinking that, seeing as this is going to have a mostly African audience, I’d better do my best to educate them about the importance of being tested for HIV, seeing as most Africans are dying of Aids?

Perhaps not the biggest let down, another thing I found disappointing was that I could in no way relate to Deola and her privileged background. I had waited to find a novel that was based between Nigeria and London, and having finally found it, I couldn’t connect with Deola as I shared very few of her experiences. I did not go to an expensive fee paying boarding school and I do not have any friends who were educated at Harrow, for a start.

Fatally, the book included too many scenes that did not move the story forward, and an ending that leaves the reader hanging. Not hanging from a cliff as such, as that would suggest an exciting ending. More like hanging from a set of monkey bars.  I kept returning to the blurb to remind myself of what the story was supposed to be about. A love story? Deola’s love interest, hotel owner Wale, does not feature enough for it to be described as a love story.

With no lucid understanding of where the story is going, what is driving the main character, and what message the writer is trying to give, a Bit of Difference, was a bit of a flop for me.

Book Review: Americanah

americanah

I must start by confessing that I actually finished reading Americanah a few months ago, and in the unwritten laws of writing book reviews, I’m sure there must be a rule somewhere about completing a write up no later than 7 days after completing a book. But I press on.

 

If I have to sum up what the book is about in a sentence, I would say it’s a tale of two teenage sweethearts, Ifemulu and Obinze, who having grown up in Nigeria, take different paths at the stage of studying at university, which leads them to experience life as foreigners abroad. Or I might describe the book a sociological essay opening up dialogue on subjects such as race and immigration, class, and politics. As one who enjoyed the study of sociology at A Level, the latter description is the one that resonates with me the most.

 

When Ifemelu goes to get her hair done at a black hairdressers at the start of the book, the description seemed to mirror so well my experience of hairdressers (and the experience of many other black women according to what I’m told), that I immediately thought “I’m going to love this book”. My prediction proved true about 65% of the time. For example, I agreed so much with the contents of Ifemelu’s blog posts about race, that I felt a little thwarted by the fact that I hadn’t written them myself! And even though I was born in the UK, my parents being immigrants, I could  relate to Obinze’s experience’s in London as an outsider and reflected on them with a slightly pained amusement.

 

I felt sympathy for Ifemelu over some of her early struggles in adjusting to American life, but ultimately I did not warm to her, or root for her. It forms part of Adichie’s style to present her protagonists as flawed, but in this case the flaws generated a mild dislike within me. It perturbed me because I felt that Ifemelu’s character was loosely based on Adichie’s; Ifemelu undertook a graduate degree in Communications in Philadelphia, and was granted a fellowship at Princeton which echoes Adichie’s own life. Did that mean if I ever met Adichie, that I might not actually like her? That’s a thought I’d rather not dwell on.

Chimanda

In the end I couldn’t root for the love story either, which I would like to point out seemed to only simmer in the background for much of the middle section of the 477 page novel. Parts of the narrative seem to drag on and I’m not sure the book really needs to be as long as it is. After nearly losing interest and irreverently flipping through what I will call the “Obama” section of the book (I don’t see what the big deal is about Obama), things picked up again on Ifemelu’s return to Nigeria, especially as the subject of Nigerian people returning “home” highly topical at this time.

 

Adichie has not surpassed Half of a Yellow Sun with this offering, but that would be a very difficult feat given just how beautiful the story of love and Biafran war is.

 

Nevertheless, Americanah is definitely worth a read, not so much because it is a stunning piece of literature, or a particularly romantic love story, but because of its subtle and not so subtle observations of social interactions, stereotypes, inequality, and social mobility. And for that Adichie should be commended.