You can read the plot synopsis and my initial thoughts of Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch here.
I read Akata Witch a few months ago and I meant to write a piece about being a U.S. born Ghanaian soon after. In all honesty I’m a bit worn out by the discussions. African vs. African-American and all of its variations. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m okay with not fitting into one category or another and I honestly don’t think anyone really does. But if you’re not yet there — if you’re are struggling with your racial/ethnic/cultural identity, I’m going to introduce you to a timeline of events you can expect to go through before you reach a level of not caring:
- When you’re in elementary school, you’ll learn the process of Americanizing your name for easy pronunciation. However your first encounter with a substitute teacher will throw you for a loop. The substitute teacher will mispronounce your name and everyone will laugh. Next time you’ll know to arrive at class early to give her your Americanized name or you’ll interrupt her with a loud “HERE!” after she utters the first syllable.
- You will notice that, beyond your funny sounding name, you really are different from your schoolmates. This can happen as early as elementary school if your parents boldly denounce assimilation by doing things things like sending you to school with banku and okra soup for lunch.
- You will discover that being born in the States but connected to elsewhere makes you kind of unique in a good way. This typically happens in college. You will join cultural organizations on campus where you and your colleagues put together events in the best imitation of those parties and ceremonies your parents have been taking you to since you were a child.
- You will visit “home” for the first, maybe second, time in your life and will be reminded that you are different. You’ll be annoyed when strangers call you American girl with absolutely no hesitation. Your annoyance will be furthered by everyone’s obsession with your skin complexion and refusal to relax your hair.
- College is over and you are introduced to another type of lonely. It’s no longer as easy to connect with people “like you.” Though you will try with paraphernalia that says what you cannot or by boldly approaching people you hear speaking you mother’s language. If you’re lucky, they’ll be passive in their rejection.
- In your
lonelinessnew free time, you discover amazing people who seem to be documenting your experience. You meet characters like Sunny in Akata Witch who live in more than two worlds that seem to be in opposition of each other. You recall each encounter in which you have been told “you’re not _____ enough.” You come to a conclusion that this is all a game of hierarchy built on arbitrary rules of Africanness. You decide that you equally love grilled cheese sandwiches and spinach stew and will never choose one over the other.
This duality is really a magical place to exist.