Eze’s (Leadership Stories of the Mother Hen, 2012) debut novel offers a study of racial prejudice as seen through the eyes of young lovers.
Uchechi grows up in an unnamed village, seemingly in Africa. As a child, Uchechi steals a wresting trophy that his and a neighboring village are fighting over and threatens to throw it in a river, thus preventing a war. Although Uchechi loves his community, his great intelligence and spirit create many options for him, including the opportunity to study at a famous university abroad. Once he arrives, Uchechi encounters racial prejudice for the first time; his naïveté about how to handle it may strike readers as somewhat unrealistic, but it helps showcase the extremity of the racism that he encounters. For example, a classmate, Annarossa, obsessively works to get a higher grade than Uchechi because it would “shame her family” to be surpassed by a dark-skinned boy from “that region.” But when she fails to top him, her view of racial superiority is turned upside down, and she abandons her hostility and tries to learn more about him. She and Uchechi soon fall in love and start on a tumultuous path that crosses forbidden racial boundaries in their town. Despite the novel’s title, the story is less about Uchechi and more about Annarossa’s journey to develop her own beliefs and confront her family’s militant racism. The novel explores racism’s erroneous, rigidly held assumptions, and depicts the courage it takes to stand up against such prejudice, as well as the cost of doing so. Although the story has its compelling moments, there are some clichés and incorrect word choices (“he recollected himself” instead of “he collected himself” and “the dye is cast” instead of “the die is cast”) scattered throughout. Some readers may feel that the narrative has little emotional depth, but the high personal stakes for the characters make it compelling.
An uneven but engaging story about racism and the transformative power of love.