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Anna is a mixed-race, middle-aged British woman who unexpectedly learns that her absent father is the leader of an African country and whose political record shines a light on both the best and worst of his radical approach. We follow her journey of self-discovery as she meets her father to understand her place with him, her family, and her racial identity. Deep in discussions of belonging, identity, and forgiveness, Sankofa is a captivating and intriguing story, filled with complexity in both the personal and political realms.
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“A beautiful exploration of the often complex parameters of freedom, prejudice, and individual sense of self. Chibundu Onuzo has written a captivating story about a mixed-race British woman who goes in search of the West African father she never knew . . . [A] beautiful book about a woman brave enough to discover her true identity.” —Reese Witherspoon
“Onuzo’s sneakily breezy, highly entertaining novel leaves the reader rethinking familiar narratives of colonization, inheritance and liberation.” —The New York Times Book Review
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A woman wondering who she really is goes in search of a father she never knew—only to find something far more complicated than she ever expected—in this “stirring narrative about family, our capacity to change and the need to belong” (Time).
Anna is at a stage of her life when she's beginning to wonder who she really is. In her 40s, she has separated from her husband, her daughter is all grown up, and her mother—the only parent who raised her—is dead.
Searching through her mother's belongings one day, Anna finds clues about the African father she never knew. His student diaries chronicle his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London. Anna discovers that he eventually became the president—some would say dictator—of a small nation in West Africa. And he is still alive...
When Anna decides to track her father down, a journey begins that is disarmingly moving, funny, and fascinating. Like the metaphorical bird that gives the novel its name, Sankofa expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present to address universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for a family's hidden roots.
Examining freedom, prejudice, and personal and public inheritance, Sankofa is a story for anyone who has ever gone looking for a clear identity or home, and found something more complex in its place.
About the Author
Chibundu Onuzo was born in Lagos, Nigeria and lives in London. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and regular contributor to The Guardian, she is the winner of a Betty Trask Award, has been shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Commonwealth Book Prize, and the RSL Encore Award, and has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and Etisalat Literature Prize. She is the author of Welcome to Lagos, and Sankofa is her third novel.
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“Onuzo, who was born in Lagos and lives in London, brings this fictional country and its ex-dictator to life with economy, precision and satirical bite . . . Part of the novel’s delight lies in Onuzo’s paralleling of stories: Francis Aggrey’s political coming-of-age, documented through excerpts from his journal, runs alongside Anna’s own transformation from suburban housewife to global citizen . . . With her anagrammatic take on the experience of the African diaspora, Onuzo’s sneakily breezy, highly entertaining novel leaves the reader rethinking familiar narratives of colonization, inheritance and liberation.” —Bliss Broyard, The New York Times Book Review
"A stark, beautifully and concisely written narrative about a woman who has lost her mother, split up from her husband and dealt with the growing up of her only daughter who decides to unpack her past in more ways than one." —Good Morning America “Uniquely layered and lovingly written.” —Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
“Chibundu Onuzo offers a stirring narrative about family, our capacity to change and the need to belong.” —Annabel Gutterman, TIME
“Beautifully written, this is a literary love story from a daughter to a father—and shows the disappointment that can come with that relationship.” —Zibby Owens, Katie Couric Media
“In Bamana, a fictionalized West African country, Onuzo is probably at her narrative best. We . . . find ourselves in a setting that fires up the senses and offers up an opportunity for us to get to know Anna better . . . Sankofa means not only to retrieve but also to do so in the spirit of taking something good from the past to better the future. Like her protagonist, the writer Onuzo boldly attempts this in her new novel.” —Angela Ajayi, MinneapolisStar Tribune
“With wit, humor, and heart, Onuzo spins a page-turner centered on a woman in search of her past . . . Taking on questions of race, belonging and heritage, Onuzo writes with gusto and beautifully illuminates what Sankofa means: ‘a mythical bird . . . it flies forward with its head facing back.’” —Al Woodworth, Amazon Book Review
"Sankofa is a vivid exploration of finding one’s place in the world, while confronting the demons brought on by our parentage." —Sarah Stiefvater, PureWow “This is a special book that deploys every tool at its disposal to explore the big questions and put its characters (especially its lead) through the wringer. Anna is a fully realized character with all of the flaws, contradictions, and above all charms that that implies. And through her journey of discovery . . . the curious reader may just come away with their own new sense of self-knowledge and a greater awareness of the powerful grip the past can hold on the present.” —Book of the Month
“A beautifully paced novel that explores the complexities and complications of family relationships, Sankofa is a triumph . . . Onuzo’s career will be one to watch.” —B&N Reads
"Sankofa marks another formidable leap forward with this story of a young woman searching for the father she never knew that will keep readers guessing up until the very end." —Chicago Review of Books "Masterful . . . Any person who is bi-racial and/or part of an ethnic diaspora will relate to Anna's struggle on a deeply personal level . . . A journey of identity and belonging unlike anything I've ever read before." —Shelf Unbound "[A] riveting, gracefully spare novel of self-discovery . . . Onuzo shows that making peace with the past can be a starting point toward self-acceptance, and that imperfect families can find common ground in unexpected ways." —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“An engagingly written journey of self-discovery.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Spellbinding . . . Onuzu’s spare style elegantly cuts to the core of her themes. The balancing of Anna’s soul-searching with her thrilling discoveries makes for a satisfying endeavor.” —Publishers Weekly
“Unscrupulous politicians, irresponsible journalism, and the yawning gap between rich and poor feel deeply personal as Anna’s journey unfolds . . . Fresh and new. ” —Library Journal
“The slick pacing and unpredictable developments—especially in the depiction of Anna’s enigmatic father—keep the reader alert right up to the novel’s exhilarating ending . . . Onuzo lifts the narrative into an entirely unexpected space. She shows that the healing of fractures and a desire for wholeness can be achieved in the most unexpected of places.” —Michael Donkar, The Guardian