Click on the links below to read published excerpts about my journey. You can listen to my radio interviews and speeches here.
AT AGE 16, I LEARN THE TRUE STORY OF MY BIRTH : That I was born in a home for unwed mothers to a Nordic-American single mother. During the Civil Rights movement, she had met my father, who would become a prominent Nigerian politician. I am raised as the sole African girl in a farming community in Washington State.
- Mom wages a war against Barbie dolls and other American conspiracies (excerpt)
- As part of Mom’s mission to save the world, I meet my first poor white folk
- Growing up as the only mixed/African girl in town, books save my life (1-page slide)
- Right before Mt. St. Helens explodes, I learn the true story of my birth
I BECOME BARACK OBAMA FIRST : The first person in my town to win a scholarship to Harvard, I get involved in community activism. The pressure I experience as a mixed-race woman leads me to flunk out and move to Southeast Asia. In the course of studying Buddhist nuns, I shave my head, ordain and move into the forest. Turns out I chose a rigorous Forest Temple (a vow of silence, a single daily meal and a goal of 19 hours of daily mindfulness)! Despite never having meditated before, I become Thailand’s first black Buddhist nun.
- I admit it: my ordination was terrifying
- My time in the temple teaches me a lifelong lesson to embrace fear and failure
AT AGE 26, I MEET MY FATHER — originally thought killed in the Nigerian civil war — for the first time. After defrocking as a nun and graduating college, I receive a surprise scholarship to Nigeria. There I learn that I — an only child — have siblings, including a sister who resembles me so much that villagers mistake me for a ghost from the spirit world.
- At age 26, I meet my sister for the first time; I’ve been madly in love ever since
- As soon as I manage to register at the University of Nigeria, the place goes up in flames
A PBS CREW ACCOMPANIES ME ON A TRIP TO NIGERIA, a decade later, to visit my adult siblings and ailing father. We film My Journey Home. I then take my mother to Sweden and Finland for her 60th birthday, and once again find myself welcomed to a village by long-lost family. My memoir-in-progress, Twins: Growing Up Nigerian / Nordic / American chronicles my lifelong journey to uncover the secrets of 4 generations of family on 3 continents.
- I draw on my own identity and experience to teach memoir, the ultimate multicultural act
- Travel writing, the most subversive of genres, can teach you everything you need to know about writing and living
- Why I cross borders in life and art