This inspiring memoir tells the story of one woman’s self discovery while surviving poverty, loss, loneliness, maltreatment, and fighting to get an education.
A generation of Nigerian children were born in Britain in the fifties and sixties, privately fostered by white families, then taken to Nigeria by their parents.
Coconut is the story of one of those children.
1963, North London. Nan fosters one-year-old Florence Ọlájídé and calls her Ann. Florence adores her foster mother more than anything but Nan, and the children around her, all have white skin and she can’t help but feel different. Then, four years later, after a weekend visit to her birth parents, Florence never returns to Nan. Two months after, sandwiched between her mother and father plus her three siblings, six-year-old Florence steps off a ship in Lagos to the fierce heat of the African sun.
Swapping the lovely, comfortable bed in her room at Nan’s for a mat on the floor of the living room in her new home, Florence finds herself struggling to adjust. She wants to embrace her cultural heritage but doesn’t speak Yoruba and knows nothing of the customs. Clashes with her grandmother, Mama, the matriarch of the family, result in frequent beatings. Torn between her early childhood experiences and the expectations of her African culture, she begins to question who she is. Nigerian, British, both?
Born in London in 1962, Florence spent her early childhood in a white foster family. At age six, she moved with her birth family to Lagos, Nigeria, where she grew up.
Florence returned to the UK in 1989 with her family. She worked as a teacher before her appointment as headteacher of a large London Primary school. In 2003 she was appointed as one of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools in England.
Florence holds an honors degree in Education from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and an MA in Further and Higher Education from the Institute of Education, University of London.
"An extraordinarily moving account of Florence's life as a black child fostered by white parents, the turbulent transition into adulthood in Nigeria, the struggle to return to England, to find the meaning of home. This is a stunning read, beautifully written with searing honesty and humor about the complexities of race and identity, about culture and belonging, about the discernible quest for self-discovery. This is a testimony of faith, resilience and determination, a wonderful achievement."—Abi Daré, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl with the Louding Voice
"In her memoir Coconut, the remarkable Florence O?la´ji´de´ shares with us a story of great encouragement. With grace, wit, insight and not a little heartbreak, through the prism of her own experiences, she adds to the conversation around modern migration; who we are in the world and how we navigate the cultures which have shaped us. Resilience, love and a loyalty to our unique sense of self, lie at the heart of her story. And it is by giving our attention to the stories of others, that our own worlds open up."—Adjoa Andoh, actress and star of Bridgerton
"I found myself completely immersed from the start! Florence writes with honesty, beauty and courage…delving deeply into some of the most important issues of our times."—Christy Lefteri, international bestselling author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo