Sankofa is the gripping novel from award-winning author Chibundu Onuzo of a middle-aged, mixed race British woman who goes on a quest to find her African father.
Since signing her first book deal at 19, Nigerian-born author Chibundu Onuzo has won a number of awards for her writing. Much like her first two novels, The Spider Kings’ Daughter and Welcome to Lagos, Sankofa is also predominantly set in Africa. This time though Onuzo created a whole new country for her heroine.
Sankofa carries us through the emotional journey of Anna, a mixed-race British woman who goes in search of the African father she never knew. Having grown up in England with her white mother, following her mother’s death and dealing with the breakdown of her marriage, Anna stumbles upon her father’s student diaries, chronicling his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London which gives tantalising glimpses of an enigmatic character that she knows nothing about.
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The first person-account diary entries reveal to Anna a captivating insight into the man her father was and the real-life circumstances around how her parents met, and how she was conceived!
An estrangement from her husband and with her daughter all grown up, Anna finds herself alone and wondering who she really is. Could finding the father she never knew give her some answers? With nothing to lose, Anna sets off on a journey to the fictional country of Bamana in West Africa where she has learnt that her father eventually became the president.
At first, it’s difficult to relate to the 40+ mixed race Anna. Rather standoffish and aloof, she appears closed off from the world around her. Having married and become a mother while relatively young in age, she gave up a career and so perhaps her aloofness can be attributed to being a woman ‘interrupted’ in her life. However, like a flower facing the sun, we start to see another, more fascinating side to Anna when she travels to Bamana in West Africa to search for her father. Embarking on a parallel search for who she is also, Anna begins to learn more about herself and the traits she has inherited from her charismatic father.
Anna’s adventures in Bamana couldn’t be more removed from her mundane existence in London. With previously unknown relatives, exposure to unbelievable riches alongside devasting poverty and a deeply spiritual awakening, life in her father’s world is an eye opener for Anna.
Chibundu Onuzo’s Sankofa is ultimately a fascinating story and offers a wonderful exploration of race, identity and the traits and legacies we pass on to our children.
Sankofa is published by Virago.
Buy it here.
Cover image credit: @doubleeph