Book Review :: Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo

Sankofa a novel by Chibundu Onuzo published by Catapult Press book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Chibundu Onuzo’s novel Sankofa follows Anna Graham—a middle-aged British woman who goes to Bamana, a fictional African country, to find her father—as she tries to understand her mixed-race heritage. Raised by her single white mother, Anna always struggled with her identity, as she knew almost nothing of her Bamanian father. Anna lived a sheltered life with a husband (from whom she is now separated because of his recent affair) who took care of everything for her, so he and their daughter are surprised when she travels to Bamana alone. I have two minor complaints: first, the ending is a bit too neatly tied together in terms of Anna’s understanding of her identity; second, some plot developments similarly seemed too easy to predict, though Anna’s naivete prevents her from seeing what has happened. However, Anna’s grappling with her identity is a useful metaphor for a postcolonial Africa still coming to terms with the multiple strands of cultural history that make the countries what they have become. The novel serves as a healthy reminder to Americans and Europeans that African countries’ histories are more complex than they seem to those on the outside.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo. Catapult, October 2021.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.

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