LAND OF MY FATHERS | BOOK REVIEW
Vamba Sherif (Hope Road Publishing)
Vamba Sherif’s evocative tale of freed slaves in Liberia is a powerful historical novel that tells a relatively unknown story of this era. In 1822, more than 15,000 freed slaves and African-Americans were paid to leave and settle in Liberia. Faced with a backdrop of French and British colonialists alongside existing tribes, the country is far from an idyll. Fleeing slavery in America, these men and women were faced with a harsh reality of building new lives for themselves in a wholly unfamiliar land, rather than the mythical idea of ‘home’ they and their parents had dreamt of for years of enslavement. These newcomers felt trapped and out of place, instead of at home and free and it is against this backdrop that Sherif’s story unfolds.
Amidst the turmoil of finding a new life, Sherif shows the strength of friendships. Edward Richard, a preacher born into slavery, vows to bring peace to the tribes of Liberia as he forges his life there. As he does this he meets Halay, a man for whom life has been decided – his people think that Halay’s death will bring peace to their land. Moving forward a century later, war exists again across Liberia, and Edward and Halay’s descendants find themselves caught up in it. Showing that the legacy of both slavery and war run deep, this is an unusual but effective look at a difficult topic.
No doubt drawing on the author’s own experiences as a refugee, fleeing the aftermath of war, Land Of My Fathers is profoundly evocative, engaging as a narrative while drawing a compelling portrait of colonialism, slavery, immigration, identity and the forging of new lives within disparate populations.
Price: £13.50. Info: www.hoperoadpublishing.com
words EMILY GARSIDE