Searching for Treasure

He understood this, perhaps: that a child can long for a parent in a way that a parent can never long for a child. He was fully formed when I was born, while I have always been missing a father.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo

From the first page of Sankofa, I was immediately concerned with perspective. Though the book is a novel, I quickly became skeptical about the level of authenticity with which such a young author could write from the viewpoint of a middle aged woman. But, as I became acquainted with Anna (the protagonist), I realized her imminent journey required her to contend with the needs, desires, and deficiencies not of her current self, but of her inner child. And that is a journey familiar to many.

Throughout Sankofa, Anna searches for her father, first literally, then for a ghost of his past self, before finally arriving at a nuanced reality. This is her primary search, and it is deserving of its own independent reflection. But it is not just a father she finds, in fact she finds another piece of herself to be missing: an entire culture.

A culture that she will never fit into, for the time has passed and her ship has sailed. But also a culture that may not have ever been hers, even with all the should haves and would haves and could haves regret has to offer. Some things are simply not meant to be. True as that may be though, I applaud Anna for wanting and searching anyway, for taking what she could get, and for having no shame in her desperation.

I am planning, or perhaps have already embarked on a journey of this sort. A journey in which I already know that what I want is too much, what I’m searching for I may never find, and what I get will simply have to suffice. A journey in which the Cartesian me will not be made up of wholes and voluntary contributions, but rather of bits and pieces and castaway scraps.

As the saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Treasure I will do and treasure I will be.