Author: Hannah Pool
Year of publication: 2005
Number of pages: 244
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
So how do you do that big thirty year old transition? It’s a pretty big year for any individual and usually people want to celebrate this period of their lives with something new or unique. British raised Hannah Pool was headed to this big day and decides to do this in a special way. The lass who had been raised in Manchester, England and had settled in that cold country’s capital of London now has a fashion column in The Guardian newspaper. She also has something in her past that follows her everywhere she goes; she was born in Eritrea. Her father, an English bloke, had adopted her from an orphanage because she was listed as an orphan and she was almost dying until he took her with him to his Manchester home. A home where she would, without a doubt be groomed to be the next generation of Manchester United’s horribly arrogant fans.
At twenty one she receives a letter from Eritrea; it’s a thunderbolt as it is allegedly from her long lost brother from Eritrea. This person claims that her family is alive and well in Eritrea; especially her father. She is young so she puts the letter away as she doesn’t quite have the mental capacity to deal with that information at the time. She does keep reading the letter for years as she gets a degree, a second degree and then a job. Then on the year of her thirtieth birthday she decides to follow up on that mythical letter and go to Eritrea to meet her father and the rest of her family.
It is quite an adventure for our author as she prepares to go to the land of her birth. It’s not an easy thing for our Hannah whose full name includes an Azieb. She eventually gets to Asmara and has many adventures with her newly rediscovered family. The end.
Are you adopted? Would you like to know the feeling of having being given up by your family and you are raised by another? This is the best portrayal of the struggles of the adopted child I have ever read. The confusion that they go through as they are separately from the people who gave them life. Our Hannah had a better transition initially as she learnt that both of her parents had died when she was young; her mother giving back to her and her father shortly after.
What do you know about Eritrea? I know that they fought a bitter war for decades to get independence from Ethiopia and continue to have a very bad relationship with their former coloniser. I know that an Eritrean won the World Cross Country championship when it was hosted in Mombasa a few years ago. Interestingly enough that guy was being cheered on by both Ethiopians and Kenyans as we don’t enjoy seeing either of us winning a race. That’s some mad rivalry. What else? Well if you are like me and know so little then this book will school you.
You will see an Asmara which is an African city which is really happening. A city where Africans walk proud without the hang ups that black folks in many European capitals don’t feel like equal citizens. You will be introduced to Keren, the city the story teller has as her home city. You will meet where her father and his new family have settled; a very harsh place to live in but where they have no choice as this is far away from the war front.
You will meet the most emotional family that has ever walked the earth. Man. Si these people weep. If I was the returnee I would be exhausted with people coming to meet me and weeping uncontrollably.
One of the things that disturbed me was that the climax seemed to happen too early in the book. This book builds up from this young woman who finally decides to take her fate in her hands and is off to Eritrea. We are hurtling towards the meeting between Hannah/Azieb and her father; the whole reason the book is called My Father’s Daughter. Then we meet the father and… It doesn’t end. It just keeps going on and on and on. At this point it gets a mite flat until one emotional point where our heroine (shero?) sits on the bed where she was born and her mother gave her life up for her child. That’s some gut wrenching stuff.
The writer is brilliant at telling us about her emotional architecture. The feelings that she is going through. Her fears. Her highs and lows. She is quite candid about her uncomfortable experiences; having to defecate (I’m not going say shit no? this is a family blog heh) in public. Having to be fed by folks. Having to learn to be fussed over by three newfound older brothers; having to learn.
What I especially love is that at the end of it the writer in her London flat changes her world view. She is a new person who has to figure our how to deal with the changes that happened to her. This is a book that should convince anyone who wants to trace their roots to give it a try.
It also makes me put Asmara on my bucket list. I’ll see that city very soon.