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Buchi Emecheta

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Buchi Emecheta’s The New Tribe (published in 2000 by Heinmann), is a seemingly
simple family story that looks at the issue of racial integration. The story told from
the point of view of the individuals impacted, centres around their lives growing up in
a multiracial setting.
Ginny as she is fondly called is married to a young curate called Arthur and has no
child of her own. She believes her prayer has been answered when a baby girl in a
Tesco bag is brought to her and she earnestly presses for adoption. The child is
named Julia. Not long afterwards, a black woman, Catherine decides to put up her
eighteen month old son for adoption and she chooses Ginny and Arthur. Ginny
accepts, though warily and Chester, the black child finds a home in the personage.
Ginny lavishes her love on both children, especially Chester. She spends time
creating an African storybook and reads out one particular story to him over and over
to engrave in him a sense of pride in his heritage.
But, as Chester grows up, so does his sense of unbelonging. The fact that he stands
out different in colour from his sister and parents stares him hard in the face and
unlike before, he begins to detest acting out the orient role always given to him in the
school play. He asks for who his true parents are. Ginny and her husband decide to
divulge the truth to their two adopted children. Deeply affected, the two children
consequently become withdrawn. Chester, meanwhile, begins to have recurrent
dreams about Nigeria -the country of his descent.
When Julia is impregnated by a family friend, Ray, she does not tell any of her
family – not even her brother. And when Chester finally finds out from Ray, he is sad
that Julia did not tell him and he feels very left out. Yet, he goes to meet her and
advises her to tell Ginnny about it. Later, Julia steals some of the church money and
runs away on the advice of her mother. After she leaves, Chester leaves as well and
moves to Liverpool to stay with one of his African friends, Ugwu. He works for a
while and meets Jimoh, who persuades him to visit Nigeria after he tells him about
the recurrent dreams.
Chester eventually leaves for Nigeria with the help of Jimoh and discovers to his
dismay, that it is not the glorified beautiful kingdom he had always seen in his
dreams. The stress and mosquitoes take their toll and Chester becomes very sick.
Esther, one of his friends, comes to take him from Nigeria and tells him that his
father his dead and that he left him some portion of money as a legacy. His sister,
Julia also visits him and gives him a book from Ginny. Chester finds out that his
recurrent dreams are the result of one of the stories in the book – the one that Ginny
had told him over and over again.
In The New Tribe, Buchi explores the deeper aspects of family life and adoption –
the obstacles and challenges.
FILED UNDER: FICTION
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