War Invades Childhood
When I was 4, two of my aunties were murdered in the anti-Igbo killings of
northern Nigeria. Forty-eight hours later, my father caught a ship home
before ever getting the chance to see me. He wrote to tell us from the
middle of the Atlantic, additionally anxious about what his newly
independent country held in store. Modern Africa's first civil war soon
erupted, and my mother labored feverishly to keep the infamous images of
starving Biafran children from me. After two years of her letters returning
unopened, she assumed my father was dead.
A year after the Biafrans surrendered, we received a letter from my father,
who'd found our address in the ashes of the ancestral compound and written
to say he was alive. Though his home had been destroyed and family members
killed, he chose to stay to rebuild Nigeria. He married and rose quickly to
high political office in Nigeria's oil-rich Second Republic. Then, when I
was 12 years old, his letters the sole link to my black heritage
stopped. Yet another family member disappeared across the ocean.