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By Sierra D Gehrke on July 27, 2015
A woman's life is compartmentalized into three distinct voices; girlhood, teen years and adulthood in the heart-breaking and inspiring true story, "Ages of Suffocation: Remembered Dreams" by Uzo Amaka. Every woman has a story but this narrator has a foot in two distinct and different worlds, Nigeria and California. Amaka beautifully describes what it was like growing up a member of a privileged Nigerian family. Despite material comfort, she and her sisters were left vulnerable to abuse by their archetypical wicked step-mother and others. They banded together to navigate an unpredictable home life until they were sent to a strict, rural boarding school. The reader gains insight into life of a typical Nigerian schoolgirl who had no other choice but to adhere to rigorous standards of academic achievement and discipline. But her story does not end there; she and her two sisters arrive in America only to be forcefully reunited with their biological mother, a woman who the author barely knew existed because she and her sisters had been illegally kidnapped by her father and brought to Nigeria many years before.<br />A standard story would end here with a beautiful reunification between a lost girl and her true mommy but that isn't the way real life works is it? Her mother struggles with depression and is woefully unprepared to care for three teenage Nigerian daughters who miss the only loving parent they have ever known, the father who abducted them. Most of all this is a story of complex, dysfunctional relationships that exist in all our families. The author takes the high road and steers away from being a victim or blaming the many guardians who failed her. In fact, characters who the author could make hateful strangely evoke sympathy because they had poor parenting skills not malicious intent. Other adults cannot be forgiven for their misdeeds but this is a story of triumph within the context of the American Dream.<br />As an adult, Amaka struggles to find closeness in her relationships with women outside of the bond with her two sisters. She becomes a modern, career woman in California built on the education and discipline she learned in Nigeria but she is neither entirely Nigerian nor entirely American. She marries a very traditional Nigerian man whose expectations from their marriage are very different from her own. This could deteriorate into a poor me story but there are no clear villains. In fact, the author owns up to her own questionable decisions without blaming others.<br />There is closure in this story but there is no dramatic catharsis or grand apology. In fact, closure doesn't come from neglectful parents or cheating husbands, it comes from within the author herself. She takes the best of both cultures, learns from the challenges of her youth and decides to forgive. In the end the reader does to.