Funny, touching debut by a Nigerian-born resident of London: a young Yoruba girl goes off to a posh English boarding-school after WW II to learn English ways in preparation for life in her soon-to-be-independent nation. Remi Foster grows up with love and comfort in the household of her paternal grandfather, the richest man in Lagos, where ``we spoke four languages, and two of them were English.'' The Fosters maintain cultural and emotional ties with England; Remi even has a white English stepgrandmother on the maternal side. Still, at age six, she's hardly prepared for exile—deposited in an English boarding-school where she's not sure whether it's worse being the object of prejudice or of curiosity. Each summer, longing for home, she stays with her English relatives—working-class people who drop their aitches and seem even more exotic to Remi's upper-class schoolmates than Remi does herself—and later with a series of well-intentioned former missionaries. Remi's childish naivetÇ and a voice that always rings true allow her to make political points without didacticism, as when she puzzles over why people in cold, gloomy England refer to her sunny home as ``darkest Africa.'' Remi is vibrant, no victim, but her experiences still break the reader's heart: upon seeing her father and her uncle for the first time in five years, Remi puts out her hand and with her best English manners asks, ``How do you do, which one of you is my father?'' Evocative story of coming-of-age, cultural transformations, and continuities.
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