Last week I started reading the novella ‘Becoming Abigail’ by Chris Abani. The book is a great coming of age story looking at the life of a young Nigerian girl who struggles to know who she is. Named after her mother who died during child-birth and called Abigail, the story follows the younger Abigail and her troubled teen years.
The book has great reviews internationally so I was excited to read about coming of age from the perspective of an African author. Having studied British Literature and the different coming of age stories written from the view-point of young White, Asian and Black British people, I was keen to see how the storytelling would differ or be like that of the Western authors I had read. People are people and we all go through similar struggles so the type of story told was familiar: troubles knowing ones identity. However the language used and the flow of the sentences and tone was distinctly different. It is amazing how language (although all English) comes with many cultural undertones and definitions.
Sitting and reading the book I felt excited to be reading a story told from an African standpoint. If you are not a literature and cultural junkie you might struggle to understand my excitement but there is something refreshing about reading stories from other cultures.
I also began to think about how the book relates to me as a young African author. Although I am Zambian and each country in Africa comes with its own identity, it has to be said that there is overall community bond (however fragile) among the African community. I have written a novella and reading ‘Becoming Abigail’ was an encouragement for me because I now know there is a sister work out there. It is great to know there are African stories that are being written and the lives of black people being told in a way that is beyond politics. Simply life.