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My Fathers' Daughter Hardcover – 28 Jul 2005
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"[A] truly moving exploration of identity." -- "Sunday Times"
About the Author
Hannah Pool, best known for her 'New Black' column in Guardian Weekend, is a writer and commissioning editor for the Guardian. This is her first book.
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Hannah's mother had died giving birth to her, and her father, who already had a large family, put her into an orphanage for care. The couple who adopted her were told that her parents were dead and she was adopted into Norway and then UK, as the coloured daughter of white parents. For many years she had no idea that she had any family other than her adopted one, until, at the age of 19 she received a letter from her brother, informing her that her father was still alive. She was dumb-struck, all these years she had believed that she had no living relatives and here were a brother and father in one.
However, she didn't want to hurt her adoptive father and wasn't sure of her own feelings, so it was another 10 years until she followed up on the letter. It turned out that she had a cousin visiting London and so her first move was to meet up with him. From him she learned that she had many sisters and brothers and that her father was still living.
At the age of 29 she finally found the courage to make the journey to the land of her birth and meet her large family.
The trip involved a number if issues, primarily the fact that she could only communicate directly with family members who spoke English; she had only a few words in her native tongue. She also found it very strange to find that after being so obviously black amongst so many whites in her adopted country, she now melded with the huge crowd of Eritreans when she arrived at the airport - only to discover that there were things about her that they could detect and thus label her as an 'incomer', and put her into another sub-set of the population.
Her original plan to meet with her family in the capital, Asmara, developed into a wish to see them in their home villages and see the home where she was born. This journey into the hinterlands was my favourite part of the book, a fascinating travelogue. What she found there was eye-opening and made her think again about her wish that she had been allowed to stay with her birth family.
This was a fascinating story, told with raw emotion. My only issue with it was that Hannah spent a bit too long on some of the emotional issues - shall I leave this room, no, I'll just stay here, but I must go......(not a literal quote), until the repetition became irritating. Otherwise, an excellent view into adoption into a different coloured family and the reunion with family that she had long believed dead.
Paradise Denied by Zekarias Kebraeb (5stars)
Marya died when Hannah was four and briefly went to stay with some friends in Norway before moving back to England with her dad. By the time she was twenty, David was lecturing at Manchester University, with Eritrean politics among his areas of expertise. When Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, the guerrilla fighters he'd got to know in the 1970s had become government ministers. David was among the people invited over for the celebrations and, on impulse, went looking for the orphanage in Asmara. Not only was it still standing, it was still being run by the same nun - Sister Gabriela - who'd arranged Hannah's adoption.
Several months after David's return home came the bombshell : a priest David had spoken to at the orphanage wrote a letter with the news that not only was Hannah's biological father still alive, she also had at least one older brother. "My Fathers' Daughter" tells the story of Hannah's trip back to Eritrea to meet her 'natural' family for the first time.
This is a very easily read book, though it can't have been a very easy one to write. Hannah doesn't spare herself - her doubts, panics, frustrations and the occasional bout of confusion are all covered. The fact that much of the book is written in the present tense, in nearly a conversational tone, really helped put those feelings across. At times, it felt like I was intruding on something a little too personal - like someone else's diary, I was unsure I 'should' be reading parts of it. At the same time, however, it almost felt like the book finished too soon. The epilogue, looking back over the year after she returned home, could nearly have been worth a book itself. Very highly recommended.
Told with humility and humour it's a great story that will bring a tear to your eye.
This book is full of emotion and it even has bits of comedy in it. This book is a must read !
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