Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

For the Love of a Mother: The Black Children of Ulster, by Annie Yellowe Palma

Second paragraph of third chapter (apologies for the scatological content):
“Get me the soap,” mum would squeal if we dared mention constipation. We would then be made to squat over the toilet whilst she softened the soap in warm water and rubbed it on your arse. To much relief, the old bowels would immediately open up and let loose the last ten days of gunge. My mother would look on triumphantly as if she had waved a magic wand or plunger. There wasn’t much time to contemplate dignity, the remedial soap was just accepted as was the fact that your brothers watched on huddled together and in stitches at the sight of your arse up in the air with bubbles floating out of it.
A few years back I read the autobiography of Jayne Olorunda, child of a Nigerian father and a Strabane woman, which was a tough read. Annie Yellowe also grew up in difficult circumstances, but in Portadown; her mother went to Liverpool as a young woman, and came back with no husband and no money, but three mixed-race children. Her Protestant relatives provided a certain amount of support, but her mother was an alcoholic who abused her children and also allowed her rotating succession of boyfriends to exploit her. Reading through, it is frankly astonishing that social services, even at the limited extent that they were operating in the 1970s, did not step in and move the children into foster care (also something that one notices by its absence from Jayne Olorunda's story); there seems to have been a certain amount of collusion between extended family and authorities to prevent state meddling. In the end, Annie did OK at school, and finally went to London to start her new life (where she is now a social worker and published poet). Her elder brother, who gets a good write-up here, is a well-known Northern Irish footballer.

I have to say that this is not a particularly well-written book - the author's style is rather breathless and stream-of-consciousness. But it comes from the heart. You can get it here.

This was my top book by a non-white writer. Next on that list is Cat Country, by Lao She.
Tags: bookblog 2019, world: northern ireland
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