Story of Me


I'm writing my memoirs. Yes, it has been brought to my attention that, at only 25-years-old, what could I possibly have to say about life at this point? Well, many things.

I am a first-generation American-born Naija. That distinction has always been a source of ire toward my parents for robbing me of my birthright. You see, even if you were born in NG and whisked away at four-months-old to the US, somehow you're more authentic than those of us born here. All I know is, my favorite foods are plantain & eggs and coconut rice. I can cook edikangikong, okra soup, afang soup, atama soup, pepper soup, egusi soup, fufu, jollof rice, coconut rice, akara, chin chin, and beans. I can prepare plantain at least ten different ways. Count to ten, say hello, goodbye, I'm sorry, come and eat, sit down, where are you going, what is your name, nice to meet you, how much does it cost, i love you. I know when someone's talking about me and usually, if I put enough effort into listening, I know what they're saying.

My mom used to take my sisters and me back "home," as we call it, every two years. We knew our cousins in Nigeria better than we knew the ones in the States. When my mom started a dance troupe, she took us to the village to learn traditional Ibibio dance properly. Between the palm wine and goat pepper soup, I always knew I was different from an American, but something else distinguished me from a black American too. As many identity issues as it created for me growing up -- other kids said I had snakes in my hair when I wore it threaded -- it has helped me find my place as an adult: what I am here to do, to write my life.

So I am writing a book about growing up as an African in America. It is a not-so-easy task -- not just the writing part, which takes a lot out of me emotionally, but selling the idea. I have submitted the proposal to a dozen agents and keep opening up rejection letters that say, "You're a wonderful writer, but I would have a difficult time getting this story published."

And I am not used to rejection. Usually, if I apply a certain amount of energy in a particular direction, whatever I want comes to me. But with this book, I have put out more energy than ever before without receiving much validation.

I wanted to blog a summer reading list today, but I realized that what I really want to do is publish and read my own book. I tend to believe that more women my age want to tell their stories, but I have to ask, where are they? I look to contemporary African authors like Ama Ata Aidoo, Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, and Chimamanda Adichie for inspiration, but there should be so many more.

We have to tell our own stories or they die with us. And I look forward to the day when our stories, no longer at the margins, are placed squarely at the center of history. So these agents and editors see my memoir as something essential -- a must- instead of a cannot-publish -- that tells the very central story of Africans in America, of America itself.

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