Thursday, 19 April 2007

Yoruba Girl Dancing by Simi Bedford

It isn’t quite the book I had expected, but I did enjoy it all the same. I understand it’s a partly autobiographical novel as Simi Bedford too was sent to boarding school in England at a very young age.

Remi, a Nigerian girl from Lagos, comes from a wealthy and educated family, with a large house and lots of servants. It is a lively household, with plenty of people coming and going. She is sent to boarding school in England at the unbelievably young age of six. What is even more amazing is that she is left in there for six years without once seeing her parents. In England, in total contrast to her home, she has to experience the loneliness of boarding school where it takes a while to become accepted by the other girls. These girls too come from privileged backgrounds but Remi spends the school holidays with the relatives of her step-grandmother, and they live in a much less affluent world.

She finds herself moving first from her familiar background in Lagos, and then between two different social classes in England, but an outsider in both. She learns to fit in with both settings by adapting her behaviour, in both cases involving fabricating stories about her life in Africa to fit in with her friends’ preconceived ideas, but she doesn’t lose her Nigerian identity completely. She encounters racism, but apparently a racism born of ignorance rather than outright hostility.

Although it is a book written with considerable humour, I found it a somewhat sad story. I can relate very much to the feeling of not quite fitting in anywhere. I’ve had a roaming life but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s given me a roaming mind and I’d prefer to have expanded horizons than static roots.

Simi Bedford has a new book to be published in July 2007, Not With Silver, about a warrior sold into slavery. It sounds worth reading.


  1. Very interesting. I found a copy of YORUBA GIRL DANCING at a little secondhand shop on London's Charing Cross Road a few years ago. Well, not unusually,it is still sitting on my shelf unread. This has inspired me to pull it out again.

  2. Ah well, it was the post on "Ten Books I Would Read ..." (which I blame on you!) that brought it up to the top of my list. And now of course it's place has been taken by one of the many sitting there ...

  3. I read this book some years ago and I was impressed. Simply because back in the day there were not too many novels written by black people about black people and perhaps for black people, so I was intrigued! Secondly, there were certainly no books written about the black middle-class, again, we didnt think it existed (some people may argue that it still does not!)so I was curious as to what it would be like for a black person to cope in an environment that could be alien to them. Nevertheless, I thought it was well and a enjoyable read.

    1. Thank you for visiting and giving your impressions. I enjoyed the book too but I still haven't got around to reading "Not With Silver", I'm sorry to say.


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