Maria Nhambu nearly outdoes herself in America’s Daughter; with renewed poise and familiar wit, she delivers the triumphant payoff that Africa’s Child readers yearn for.
America’s Daughter is the follow-up to part one of Maria Nhambu’s memoir, Africa’s Child — which chronicles Nhambu’s tumultuous early life at a Tanzanian orphanage up to her departure for America. Here, after she is adopted by Catherine Murray, we see Nhambu attend and graduate college and then ultimately go on to become a teacher at an inner-city school. Along the way, she learns about what it means to be an American and, especially, a black American. After a trip to her hometown in Tanzania, Nhambu reconnects with her African heritage and decides to bring it back home to America with her. By teaching Swahili and African Studies, among other things, Nhambu unites the African child in her with the American daughter she’s become and introduces readers to yet another compelling, inspirational version of herself. America’s Daughter is a poignant account of the socialization and assimilation of immigrants in America. When Nhambu leaves for America at the end of Africa’s Child, readers are left mesmerized by her journey, hoping that her struggle has ended and that her future is bright. Nhambu’s hardships prove far from over, but the evolution she undergoes in the first book is present in every step of her new journey; she is better suited to face her struggle head-on. Much like in Africa’s Child, Nhambu doesn’t pull any punches in her depiction of the many forms that brutality can take — especially in the form of racism. The juxtaposition of the extremity of Nhambu’s adversity with the way she overcomes it time and time again is largely what makes both books so compelling. America’s Daughter sets itself apart from its predecessor in its exploration of how American racism differs from the kind of discrimination Nhambu faced back in Tanzania as conveyed by her endlessly thoughtful and masterfully personable reflection. Although she faces hardship in America, readers are also invited to enjoy the beauty that Nhambu has found in her life during this period. She finds love and finally builds the family that she never had in Africa. One of the book’s most rewarding qualities is found in the sanctity of Nhambu’s throughline; her love of education, which arguably saves her life in Africa’s Child, ultimately grows into her channel for giving back to the world by teaching. When Nhambu returns to Africa, we see the person she’s become, reconnecting with the environment that made her. Nhambu’s account of this experience and how she brings it back with her to America teaches us that growth is cyclical — a theme that’s further established by the organization of her three-part memoir. And, once again, it’s Nhambu’s emotionally intelligent prose that carries the beauty of this message along. America’s Daughter checks all the boxes for a well-written memoir. Nhambu’s effortless command of these devices frees the reader to focus all of their attention on the weight of her heartbreaking yet inspirational experience.