Cover Image: Coconut

Coconut

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This memoir was so powerful
 Learning about Florence's life and what she has been through as a child is just phenomenal!

Moving and empowering, we are following Florence into 1950's London where life was challenging and foster homes were usual for kids who did not behave 'like the society' wanted them to do.
After listening to do this I needed to have a proper sit and think about it for a while
The same happened to me after reading My Name Is Why. These two books are a must and you should definitely check them out!
Was this review helpful?
I work for the publisher and was just testing that the book downloads ok onto NetGalley so this is not really a proper review.  Just clearing it down to sort out my request to review ratio.
Was this review helpful?
This is a moving and empowering story of resilience and finding your identity.

I learnt so much from listening to Florence's story. I feel like she has packed multiple lifetimes into one life.
Was this review helpful?
This is not my usual type of read, but I loved the story of Florence, who was born in Britain in the 1960s to Nigerian parents but fostered by a white family, but then taken back to Nigeria when she was six.  She found life very different and struggles with the hardships of Nigerian life and the Yoruba culture.  Living with her father's extended family she was often abused by her grandmother.  Florence was an intelligent and resilient child though and I couldn't help admiting her.  We follow Florence as she goes to school, and eventually falls in love.  Then, along with her husband and children, Florence returns to Britain and once again has to fight to make a life for herself and her family.

The narration by Adjoah Andoh was superb, and I really felt that it was Florence herself telling her story.  This is an incredible thought provoking memoir of an amazing woman and I highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
In 60's London Florence is living with her foster family. She adores her foster mother Nan & her family, visiting her Nigerian parents whenever they aren't working.  All of the children around her are white, she doesn't understand why she is treated differently because of her dark skin.

4 years later her parents collect her from Nan's & return to Nigeria with her 3 younger siblings.  Exchanging her comfortable bed & life in England for a floor mat & a culture that she has no experience of.   As much as Florence wants to embrace her culture she has a lot to learn. She doesn't speak Yoruba or understand any of the cultural differences leading to frequent beatings from her paternal grandmother.

Where does she belong? England? Nigeria? Neither? Both?

Florence's story is an uplifting tale of surviving hardship & poverty, & one woman's determination to overcome the cultural barriers that are put in place to keep her in her expected role.  

I really enjoyed this audiobook & was drawn in from the off. Florence's story is truly inspiring & a real opportunity to look inside a different culture.  

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Coconut is a story that begins in 1960s London. Like many people of colour from far flung places in the Commonwealth, Florence's parents leave their home in Nigeria to study and find work in London, and their children are born here as a result. Also in common with many of their compatriots, their need for childcare is fulfilled by privately fostering out their child to a white family, with occasional visits home to the cramped living conditions of their parents.

Despite the birth of younger siblings who remain with their parents, Florence continues in the care of her foster family for four years and comes to love them dearly, especially her kindly foster mother 'Nan' who calls Florence 'Ann' - a name she only learns later is not her real one. Surrounded by white faces, Florence gradually comes to understand that there is something different about her and often wonders why there are so few black faces around her.

After one weekend visit home to her parents and younger siblings, Florence is upset to learn that she will not be returning to stay with her lovely 'Nan'. Instead, frustrated at being unable to find jobs that recognise their skills and educational achievements, Florence's parents decide to return to live in Nigeria - a country she and her brothers and sisters have never visited.

At the age of six, Florence steps off a boat into the heat and chaos of Lagos - her new home. She struggles to understand almost every aspect of her new life, and although desperate to learn about her cultural heritage and amazed to behold the sea of black faces that live here, she does not even speak Yoruba and her British ways get her into endless trouble. The family matriarch Mama, her father's mother, holds sway in this tiny cramped apartment, and she is a great believer in the 'spare the rod, spoil the child' method of childrearing, subjecting Florence to regular beatings in her determination to imbue the Yoruba ways into her granddaughter - a traumatic pattern of behaviour that continues in the years to come.

As Florence grows, falls in love, marries and has children of her own, we are at her side as she fights to get an education and earn the freedom to aspire to something more that the expectation that she will become an obedient and tractable young woman formed for marriage and childbearing. Where do her roots lie and how much of her is British and how much Nigerian?

It's only when she and her husband make the hard decision to uproot their family and make a life in Britain, fighting to carve out a place for themselves in a country that is not always accepting of those who are different, that Florence comes to understand how she can combine elements of both her cultural identities and make peace with who she really is.

Coconut is an incredible memoir of a black woman struggling to find out where she belongs, and how the myriad jigsaw pieces of her cultural identity come together to form a coherent picture. What makes this so unusual is that Florence happily grew up thinking of herself as completely British until having to adjust the huge culture shock of being uprooted at the age of six to live in Nigeria, and being required to negotiate completely different societal norms and family customs, without the least idea of how to go about doing so, especially since she did not even have the benefit of speaking the same language. 

There was so much I did not know about the Yoruba way, from family relationships, the education system, and the wider culture, and Florence vividly describes them in all an engaging and informative way, sprinkling her narrative with anecdotes about many facets of her life in Nigeria, including some pivotal moments in the country's history. I found it all fascinating and deeply touching, despite the many examples of injustice, sexual discrimination and violence that recur, because amidst the tough moments Florence also conveys so much humour, and genuine affection for family, friends and many aspects of her new found life at the same time - even down to the simplest of pleasures.

When Florence's story moves on to the time she returns to settle in Britain with her family, we are on more familiar territory in terms of the struggles facing a black family fighting for the same opportunities offered freely to their white neighbours. Here Florence describes instances of being forced to live to sinkhole estates where crime is rife, and having to settle for low paid domestic work because education and skills count for less if your face does not fit. But our Florence is nothing if not determined, as we are well aware - I celebrated every triumph at her side as she overcame many obstacles and settled into life as a valued teacher in an inner city school, learned to adjust to life as a British mother, and then reaped the rewards of her labours to achieve her dreams, and help her own children become happy and well-adjusted.

The most heart-warming and uplifting thing about this memoir for me is the way Florence has become more comfortable with expressing the parts of herself that stem from both her British and Nigerian sides, learning that she does not have to diminish her Yoruba heritage to live and thrive in Britain. I love that she has been able to use her experience of living in both countries to help so many young people and their parents to fulfil their potential and live happy and full lives too.

Coconut is one of the most rewarding memoirs I have read, and listening to the audio book version, narrated splendidly by Adjoa Andom, has been a wonderful experience. Tracing Florence's highs and lows, her loves and losses, and the lessons she has learned as she has matured, has really allowed me to have an incredible insight into her life - and it has an inspiring message for anyone struggling with a sense of belonging, or wondering how to rationalise different sides of their own cultural identity.
Was this review helpful?
As a child Florence Ọlájídé  was privately fostered by a white British family, like many other Nigerian children as her parents studied. Reunited with her biological parents in Nigeria, we see her having to adapt to a life she is completely removed from.

Coconut is Florence Ọlájídé’s memoir, narrated by Adjoa Andoh, and I have to say Andoh really brings the story to life and vividly paints a story in the listeners’ mind. Most of the book was set in Nigeria, so it was interesting to see the changes that took place in the country including the Biafra War as well as the numerous coups that took place during this time.

Despite the book presenting many issues of culture clashes, as well as painful experiences around discrimination these weren’t dwelled on, but told in a more matter of fact way.

For those familiar with the derogatory use of the term coconut - a Black person on the outside but white on the inside, this is not why the book has its name. Florence chose the name as it shows the duality of both influences on her life.

I have already recommended the book to my friends.

***Thank you to Netgalley, Hachette and Bookouture for this advanced audio copy in exchange for an honest review.***
Was this review helpful?
This audiobook is such a joy to listen to - Adjoa Andoh is the perfect narrator and adds so much to a story that is already moving, clever, though-provoking and important. Such a joy to listen to.
Was this review helpful?
When I first came across this memoir by the cover stopped me in my tracks.  Then, I saw the synopsis and knew I had to read it!  

This debut memoir tells the story of a girl who was born in London during the early 1960s.  But, at the age of 6, her birth parents decided to move the entire family to Lagos, Nigeria.  For the first 6 years of her life, she was fostered by a white woman named Nan and her family. It was common during this time for Nigerian children to be fostered while their parents worked.

Moving to a new country was a divergence from the life she had known -- new language, new customs and a new way of life.  This is her story of self-discovery and how her two worlds shaped her. I thought the way the author told her story was rich, humorous (at times) and honest.  Adjoa Andoh (most recently known for her role as Lady Danbury on Bridgerton) lent her voice to the narration of this memoir and it is fantastic!
Was this review helpful?
This is one of the best books I have read this year. I had no real knowledge of the culture. It was a really good look into the authors experiences. The writing was great and the story flowed nicely.
Was this review helpful?
A wonderful memoir set in England and Nigeria and beautifully read by actress Adjoa Andoh. The story is that of Florence who is born in 60’s England the eldest child to her Nigerian parents., is fostered by a white family for a time. The family decide to move back to Nigeria and Florence is taken away from her white family and then feels like she doesn’t belong to her birth country or her parents birthplace. Florence spends years trying to understand where she is going and how to feel part of the world she find herself in, often the emotional pull of England and her foster mother is too much to bear. The one thing she knows she has to do is get back to England to see her. Growing up the hard way and through determination Florence finishes her education to become a qualified teacher and find her freedom. Wonderful memoir exploring all the natural and circumstantial milestones of growing up in an aspirational yet traditional family. Thank you #NetGalley for the audiobook to review.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this memoir of a woman growing up straddling the culture of 1960s London, UK and 1970s Lagos, Nigeria. The author does an excellent job of exposing the differences in custom and culture in the two places where she grew up. With her perspective she is able to name and examine the upsides and downsides of British and Yoruba ways of being. For example she discusses her difficulty with hearing about how seniors can be mistreated British care homes compared to how elders are respected and taken care of in Yoruba culture. The narrator has a great voice and I loved hearing the pronunciations in the Nigerian names. A great easy-going listen.
Was this review helpful?
Loved this!!  I’ve also read this book and the audio book was just as brilliant. Has been great on my commutes back to the office.
Was this review helpful?
I loved reading this autobiographical account. It was very moving and I could empathize with the author, being a person of color myself. Race and racial identity is not the same even for people who hail from the same roots, so amplifying voices is imperative, now more than ever. 

I think it it is very important for all of us to read a diverse set of autobiographical books so as we can get better at being human.. The audiobook version is very well performed, I highly recommend it.
Was this review helpful?
A Black girl fostered by a white family in the 1960s in England and her search for belonging and identity. - the premise of the book immediately appealed to me. I love memoirs and all the more so when they deal with social issues. 

Memoirs also generally make for fantastic audiobooks, and this was no exception. The Narrator, Adjoa Andoh, does a great job with the accents and pacing which allows you to be totally immersed in the story. 

We follow Florence from early childhood in London, through her teenage years and education in Nigeria and back London where she becomes a successful teacher and professional in British education. I particularly loved the stories of childhood and schooling in Nigeria, the stories were raw but filled with joy and we were able to be part of Florence’s coming of age and development.

Ọlájídé explores issues of race and identity with an abundance of honesty and humour. It’s poignant and eye opening, especially in its deep dive of the educational system and Institutions in both the UK and Nigeria. The importance of family is also a major theme throughout, the good and the bad aspects of it! 

It is quite a long read/listen for a memoir but definitely worth diving into. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Incredibly moving and compelling memoir by a very talented author.  I haven’t read a memoir targeting this issue in the past, so I definitely was interested when I saw this one would be released.  The author definitely keeps your interest the entire time, as you grow more and more engrossed in her story.
Was this review helpful?
A gorgeous memoir of a fascinating element of 60s British history. Coconut follows the life of Florence, born in England to Nigerian parents and fostered by a white family until her parents moved their family to Nigeria. Coconut speaks beautifully and honestly about having a foot in two different cultures and the difficulty of fully immersing oneself in either (and the guilt associated with the desire to be one and not the other). 

Perhaps a slightly longer book than it needed to be, the pacing is a little slow in some areas, I would highly recommend this book to everyone and the narration of the audiobook was spot on.
Was this review helpful?
Coconut is the memoir of Funmi, who was born in England to Nigerian parents. In her early childhood, due to her parents' arduous work schedules, she was fostered by a white family who called her "Ann." Funmi became extremely attached to this family and missed them dearly when her parents decided to return to Lagosn when she was six years old. Funmi's initial culture shock was harsh - unaccustomed to beatings, she was caned mercilessly by her grandmother for even the smallest of infractions. Everything was new to Funmi, and she struggled to navigate the Yoruba culture. 

As the years progressed, Funmi became integrated into her world, but England always remained a beloved thought and aspiration. After marrying, Funmi and her (also British born) husband returned to London with their 3children, and it is there where Funmi realizes that she in fact has become more Yoruban than British. She finds herself reverting to Yoruban child-rearing practices and thinking much in ways that she had earlier shunned. As the book draws to a close, Funmi realizes what it means to be truly of two worlds.

This book is an excellent portrayal of how biculturalism and bilingualism function in real life. What I found most interesting was Funmi's teaching practice once back in England. She articulates how differently  (and even detrimental) she sees British practices as compared to Nigerian pedagogy but she learns to meld her practices so that they function best for herself and her students. Eventually, she becomes a cultural broker for parents from all over the world.

This book. although a little longer than it might have been, is a provocative read. #NETGALLEY #COCONUT
Was this review helpful?