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Episode 236: Chibundu Onuzo

BY MEGAN LABRISE • October 5, 2021

A biracial British woman explores her ancestry in novelist Chibundu Onuzo’s ‘Sankofa.’

On this episode, Chibundu Onuzo discusses Sankofa (Catapult, Oct. 4), a powerful third novel from a fiction phenom: the youngest author ever to ink a deal with U.K. publisher Faber and Faber, for her 2012 debut, The Spider King’s Daughter. Sankofa is the story of Anna Bain, a biracial British woman raised in London by her Welsh mother, never knowing her African-born Black father. Anna is middle aged, grieving her mother’s death, and headed for divorce. After discovering her father’s journal among her mother’s personal effects, she sets out on a quest to find him—gaining new insight into who she is and who she may become.

Kirkus on Sankofa: “The title refers to a mythical bird that ‘flies forward with its head facing back,’ a potent symbol for Anna, who must learn to embrace the new opportunities that come with change. An engagingly written journey of self-discovery.”

Onuzo and host Megan Labrise discuss Anna’s relationship to her parents at the start of the book; how the way she was parented affected the way she parents her daughter Rose, who society reads as White; the multivalent nature of racism; whether achieving stunning success at an early age changes your relationship to time; this phrase from the book: “the hubris that makes daily life possible”; the meaning of the word “sankofa,” and why it was the right title for the novel; and much more.

And in a sponsored interview, Megan talks with Brittney Morris and Chanel Craft Taylor of the Crunk Feminist Collective, who, with fellow member Susana Morris, are the authors of Feminist AF (Norton Books for Young Readers, Oct. 4). Kirkus calls this excellent illustrated guide to absolutely crushing girlhood “a necessary life companion for readers of all backgrounds” (starred review).

Then in a special editors’ segment, we bid adieu and give thanks to beloved young readers’ editor Vicky Smith, who leaves Kirkus—and Fully Booked—after this episode. Also, Vicky, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick offer their top picks in books for the week.

Editors picks:

The Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yelchin (Candlewick)

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King by Daniel De Visé (Grove)

Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor (Catapult)

Also mentioned on this episode:

In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides (Doubleday)

 

Thanks to our advertisers:

Sketches of a Small Town, Circa 1940: A Memoir by Clifton Meador

Fine, Thanks: Stories from the Cancerland Jungle by Mary Dunnewold

Cardinal Coat and Other Stories by Katharine Crawford

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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