A brilliant debut novel by Diana Anyakwo, My Life as a Chameleon is written in beguilingly simple prose and evokes what it was like for the author to grow up Irish-Nigerian in Lagos, Nigeria in the 1980’s. Anyakwo’s mother was a ‘nigerwife’ – the name given to white women who lived in Nigeria with their Nigerian husbands. I am Danish-Nigerian, and much of this novel had me gasping with the surprise of recognition. Chameleon also forms an ‘alternative life’ for myself: what if my parents had chosen to live in Nigeria and we had grown up there?
There are laughs in the novel, but the overwhelming feeling is a yearning to protect the young protagonist from the harsh circumstances and people she encounters, not only In Nigeria, but when, after her father’s mental breakdown, she is sent to live with an Irish ‘aunty’ for a number of years in Manchester, UK, too. Tender and beautifully written, if Chameelon does not move you to tears by its end, check yourself – you are probably stone.
PS. Chameleon forms an interesting complement to the ‘The Strength of Our Mothers’ (ISBN: 978-1-78972-129-4) collection of writings edited by SuAndi featuring interviews of white, Mancunian mothers who had children by African men and raised them in England.