From My Mother's Back
In this warm and honest memoir, celebrated academic Njoki Wane shares her journey from her parents' small coffee farm in Kenya, where she helped her mother in the fields as a child, to her current work as a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
Moving smoothly between time and place, Wane uses her past to illuminate her present. The childhood confusion caused by nuns at her boarding school dismissing her proper name and demanding she give them a Christian first name she did not possess, which resulted in many unexpected consequences, leads deftly to her requirement as a professor that her students, and all her colleagues, learn to use and correctly pronounce her first name of Njoki. In similar ways, Wane uses other memories, painful and tender, to show how her early lessons and the support given by her family allowed her to succeed as a woman of colour in the academy and to later lift up her students facing their own difficult journeys. Yet Wane does not gloss over her own growing pains as a young woman, and as an established professor she still questions whether or not her attachment to Western conveniences is wise. For, in the end, Wane never forgets that her story started with the feeling of safety and the clear field of view she received as a child carried on her mother's back. (From Wolsak and Wynn)
Njoki Wane is a professor at the University of Toronto and a recognized scholar in the areas of Black feminism and African spirituality.
- 7 works of Canadian nonfiction to read for Black History Month 2020
- The best Canadian nonfiction of 2020
- Njoki Wane's memoir From My Mother's Back is a story of Black resilience and developing a strong sense of self
- 25 books by Black Canadian authors to read in 2021
"Honestly, if we could just sit down, all of us, and look at each other's eyes and say, 'I see you. I'm going to give you the best I can. I'm not going to look at you and discriminate because of the colour of your skin, because of where you came from or because of your religion,' this would be a good, good place.
If we could take a moment and reflect on who we are as humans, we would be able to accomplish a lot in tackling racism in this country.
"This also takes me back to dreams of my mom, who was pushing me, and who was telling me to read this or that.
"If she were to wake up today, and I told her people are pushing me because of the colour of my skin, I think she would be very sad.
"If we could take a moment and reflect on who we are as humans, we would be able to accomplish a lot in tackling racism in this country."