What My Mother Gave Me

What My Mother Gave Me

Mixed Dreams: towards a radical multiracial/ethnic movement

Nicole Asong Nfonoyim

“To lose your mother was to be denied your kin, country, and identity. To lose your mother was to forget your past.”
Dr. Saidiya Hartman

I am the spitting image of my mother.

Three years ago I learned the ‘truth’ about my origin story. The ‘truth’, however, didn’t make the myth of my early life any less real–any less a rooted marker of who I was and who I am or will become. And that, I owe to my mother.

You see, three years ago I was told that I was kinda, sorta adopted– not legally with paperwork and red tape, not brought from some far off place to an entirely different family, but taken in quietly, seamlessly, secretly by the love and determination of a woman who loved my father very much. That woman became the only mother I have ever known.

My father, who I write about in “Native Speaker,” has always been a very strong and visible part of my identity. The Cameroonian name I inherited from him, make my African identity proud and visible against a face that is sometimes hard to place. My Cameroonian family is large and spread all over the world and the blackness I share with them is rooted in a vibrant ancestral past  and a contemporary post-colonial African present.

And yet, in key ways it was my mother who gave me kin, country and identity…

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