Answer Me in Mother Tongue – CNF by Clementine E. Burnley

IceFloe Press

Answer me in mother tongue

If I ask the wrong questions of her, Ma Gwen remains a powerful, prayerful middle-aged matron. With the right move she unfolds into Gwen, a slight-figured thirteen year old afloat, on a steamer that will take two weeks to arrive in Lagos. She leaves behind her Raleigh bicycle, and the sketch of Carter Bridge her small uncle Francis has made because who needs a drawing when the real thing awaits.

Did you want to travel five hundred miles to school?

It is 1945. Gwen’s part of Cameroon is located at the edge of the eastern region, at the edge of British Nigeria. At Apapa Docks she sits on her suitcase and while she waits for Uncle Mr Udofia, she plays with a wooden puzzle that can be rearranged into seven different shapes. She will live with the Udofia’s and their children until she finishes school.

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