Where Bones Dance

Where Bones Dance

An English Girlhood, An African War

Book - 2007
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     In this stunning debut novel, a child dissects the darkness at the heart of her British diplomatic family. Living in Nigeria on the brink of civil war, Anna--also known as Jake--becomes blood brothers with Dave, the Korean American daughter of a C.I.A. operative. They do push-ups, collect pornography, and plot lives of unmarried freedom while around them a country disintegrates. Luscious, terrifying, and raw, Nigeria itself becomes a lesson in endurance, suffering, love. 
     Stories are layered upon stories: Anna's grandmother tells stories about life as a white woman on the Gold Coast; the clairvoyant and closeted "Aunt" Elsie gives Anna a story of transformation to hold onto in the coming tumult of adolescence. Yet Where Bones Dance also spirals down to the stories that are not told--sexual abuse, the myth of benign colonialism, the chaos of postcolonial Africa. Sensual and fantastical by turns, this moving, funny, immensely readable book delivers an understanding of the interplay of sexuality, gender, race, and war that is sophisticated beyond the years of its intrepid narrator.   Winner, Georges Bugnet Award for Novel, Alberta Literary Awards, Writers Guild of Alberta
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians and the Public Library Association
Publisher: Madison : Terrace Books, c2007.
ISBN: 9780299222604
0299222608
Branch Call Number: Fic
Characteristics: xvi, 301 p. ; 24 cm.

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quagga Nov 25, 2009

I lived in Nigeria from when I was seven until I was ten but, before writing this book, I had almost no conscious memory of that time, or indeed of the first twelve years of my life. The first time I wrote about Nigeria the story startled me with its immediacy. It came from an unknown place inside myself." The University of Wisconsin Press, publisher of Where Bones Dance, assigns the following marketing descriptors on the back of the dust jacket: Fiction / Autobiography / Africa / Lesbian Interest. So, is it fiction or is it true? The author says: "I gave myself, in writing the book, complete permission to lie."

Newington's memories are vividly evocative of Nigeria as seen through the eyes of a White colonialist child. She uses the name 'Anna' in the book. Her father was a British diplomat, observing the civil war as it began in the late 1960s. Her best friend is Helen, daughter of a Korean-American spy. The first time Anna visits Helen's home, she tells her, "My name is Jake. I'm a marine." Helen says, "My name is Dave. It's a code name. I'm a spy." Anna's emerging lesbian self can be glimpsed in her interactions with Helen, as well as in her adamant statements that she will never marry.

Candid, gritty and compelling, the narrative is a collection of memory fragments - sometimes dreamlike, even nightmarish. Anna's relationship with her mother is troubled and dark. Disturbing incidents are dropped liked grenades between descriptions of kite-flying at the seaside and traditional Igbo tales recounted by Christine, a domestic employee.

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