Kabir Kareem-Bello has written an engaging and very readable memoir of his life. Charting his early beginnings, living a middle class life in Nigeria to sudden and disruptive socio-economic change in the country that forced many, including his parents to leave Nigeria to search for a better life. Memoirs of a Young African is not a usual tale- the immigration of Africans to the UK, the culture shock and struggles faced by the protagonist has been overcome by many, but it is a decent page turner and a recommended read.
THE VOICE Newspaper
The book tells a story of the young Kabir as he adapts to life in London after emigrating from his home in Nigeria. It’s a gem of a read- sparkling collection of reminisces that will be hilariously and at time poignantly and painfully familiar to the diaspora. The book starts with Kabir growing up in the city of Ibadan and ends with his leaving school in West London. There are plenty of laughs aplenty along the way. The passages about school are so painfully honest you can smell the chalk and are plunged back into the horrible rivalries, hopes and disappointments that mark this universal rites of passage. A delightful, joyous read that offers an important insight into the adjustments many in the diaspora have had to (and are) making.
Nigerian Watch Newspaper
“Writing is a lonely profession, one has to balance self doubt with humility; and self confidence with arrogance, one must find the middle path” Kabir Kareem-Bello
About Memoirs of a Young African
Memoirs of a Young African is a book which covers a number of different themes. It provides the reader with a very tangible comparison of two very different worlds and cultures. The stories are told through the eyes of an 11 year old protagonist Kabir who immigrated to the United Kingdom from his home in Nigeria in 1992. The protagonist tells a tale that has been experienced by many but written by few- the emigration of Nigerians/Africans to the UK during the 1990’s. Kabir shares his memoirs through a series of intertwining flashbacks which gives the book animation. The first half of the book is written in an anecdotal format as Kabir absorbs his amazing new world which is considerably more advanced that the one which he left behind. Examples include the first time he saw a cash machine, the first time he took a tram and his first visit to Oxford Street. The sudden change from a vibrant yet sometimes chaotic country into the more advanced and structured city of London allows Kabir a range of new experiences that he had only seen on televisions. As much as he finds the street lights and advanced transportation systems fascinating, there are many unexpected moments when his experiences make yearn for home. To give the reader an experience of the magnitude of the change that he goes through, Kabir provides a very descriptive account of the differences between Nigeria and England.
His early experiences at his new primary school in London provide the reader with some the most hilarious elements of the book. Kabir’s experiences there demonstrate the stark differences between two schooling systems. His new school in England is paradise compared to that in Nigeria where he was regularly beaten for the slightest infraction and was not very popular. His new school give him an opportunity to redefine himself and he grabs it with both hands. He excels at his new school he experiences some pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Everything in his new school is different, from the size of the classroom, to the types of food that is served. During this period, Kabir attempts to fit into his new environment but he is also petrified of losing his identity. He enjoys the novelty of being the African kid but is also shocked at the poor spoken English of his new classmates. There is the Queens’s English spoken by educated Africans which is very different from that spoken by English people.
The second part of the book looks at Kabir’s struggles as his starts secondary school, he quickly realises after a few months in England there is still so much that he does not know about his new home. This is where Kabir begins to grow and make a lot of realisation about himself and the importance of his heritage and identify. He makes a number of shocking discoveries during his early years at the school with one the major realisations that bigotry goes beyond skin colour. He is abused and ridiculed but not by people who he would have expected it from. Through is storytelling, Kabir highlights experiences of many young Africans, bullying at the hands of young West Indians boys. The early novelty of being African is non-existent as secondary schools as Kabir endures difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences because he is African. In addition to growing up pains, Kabir struggles to maintain his identity as he begins to adapt to English way of life. He constantly feels guilty as he fears that he will forget where he came from. These painful experiences force Kabir to delve into his roots, and then he begins to value the importance of being able to determine where he came from. He is ultimately able to define himself and appreciates how lucky he is to have been able to experience two very different cultures in such a short period of time.
The book will be especially poignant for any Africans who have made a similar journey, anybody who has been through the migration process and anybody who just wants a good read and a hard laugh. Memoirs of a Young African is revolutionary in that it has an ability to capture the reader’s attention and gain access into their most secret and/or forgotten memory banks… thus creating a delightful revisit down memory lane.
Purchase on Amazon.co.uk
Publisher: Grosvernor House Publishing Ltd