Today, it’s a brand new review of a memoir that needs to be read, immediately. It’s the wonderful and powerful, My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay.
This book is everywhere at the moment – right at number one in the bestseller charts and for good reason, too. It’s a beautiful, powerful and an impactful read. But first, what’s it about? This is the synopsis:
How does a government steal a child and then imprison him? How does it keep it a secret? This story is how.
At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in a foster family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth.
This is Lemn’s story: a story of neglect and determination, misfortune and hope, cruelty and triumph.
Sissay reflects on his childhood, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. Written with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation’s best-loved poets, this moving, frank and timely memoir is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.
Sounds amazing, right? Lately, I’ve felt that I haven’t read much non-fiction in a while and have been engrossed in the world of fiction, especially with the Booker Prize. I wanted, needed, some good non-fiction that will make me think, inform me, entertain me, move me. I ordered three books and one of them being My Name is Why. This is a book that I have seen everywhere on social media and everyone saying how they loved it and how much of an impactful read. I was especially moved by Dolly Alderton talking about it on The High Low podcast so beautifully. As soon as my copy arrived, I read it in two days straight. I was completely and utterly moved by it and couldn’t put it down.
This is a relatively short book. The chapters are short and the premise of the book is looking at his files when he was in care for the first time and they are in the book. He talks about them, reflects on them, corrects them, gives them a wider meaning. It’s a short book but with a bigger, bigger message at it’s core.
I haven’t read much of Sissay’s poetry before and the chapters start with a little poem that are all so moving and incredibly written. He writes so movingly – it is lyrical, but with an urgency and a passion and it’s bold, too. It’s really powerful stuff. While it is a memoir and a true story, it reads like fiction, it’s utterly unputdownable. It’s about asking questions, growing up in care, the need to be loved and the need to love, it’s about being black, about kindness, about the power of creativity, as it says in the synopsis. It’s full of heart and an inspirational need and an urgent and necessary read right now.
I can’t recommend this book enough. Read it, cherish it, love it, share it with your friends and family. A beautiful, haunting read that you won’t be able to put down. A story of the human survival, kindness but full of heart and humour, too. A triumph.
I will build an embassy
In your heart over time
There is a plot of land inside me
Build one in mine
Have you read My Name is Why? What did you think? Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait to read more of his beautiful poetry.