The Next Chapter

Njoki Wane's memoir From My Mother's Back is a story of Black resilience and developing a strong sense of self

The Toronto-based academic and author spoke with Shelagh Rogers about her debut memoir.
From My Mother's Back is a nonfiction book by Njoki Wane. (Wolsak & Wynn)

Njoki Wane is a Toronto-based author and a scholar in the areas of Black feminism and African spirituality. Her memoir From My Mother's Back takes a look at her childhood living in Kenya where her parents owned a small coffee farm.

It explores her African identity and how her upbringing and close relationship with her mother fostered her sense of self as a Black woman. 

Wane spoke with Shelagh Rogers about why she wrote From My Mother's Back.

Teaching anti-racism

"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."

Taking a toll

"Being Black is constantly trying to prove yourself, even when you're productive. Many times, when I'm driving home from the university where I teach, I cry to myself.

"I tell myself, 'Why? Why would people discriminate against me because of the colour of my skin? It is because I'm a woman? Because I speak with an accent? I'm smart. I'm intelligent. What's wrong with the world?' 

Being Black is constantly trying to prove yourself, even when you're productive.

"That can be very depressing. But at the same time, the universe has been very supportive to me. The universe has given me a chance to write, to teach and to research things that I like."

Njoki Wane's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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