Lively colors, big gatherings, tribal festivals, parents, grandparents, servants... for Remi, growing up in Nigeria is a celebration of love and family, eccentricity and old ritual. She feels confident in her privilege and grounded in the heart of her culture. But when she turns six, as if by some awful spell, she is sent to faraway England, to a posh all-girls' boarding school where she will stay for what seems like a desolate, lonely eternity. There, like the heroine of The Little Princess, she's left to find her own way - the only black in a school full of upper-class English girls whose rituals are as foreign to Remi as hers are to them. Through sheer inner exuberance, Remi triumphs over the dismal climate, social anomalies, and glaring affronts that are her English experience. She endures foreign holidays celebrated with strangers, and navigates the labyrinth of race, caste, and culture, taking nothing lying down, and emerges victorious - if changed forever. Yoruba Girl Dancing is the story of a girl's exile from her homeland and her metamorphosis into someone that even she at times hardly recognizes. Simi Bedford, who herself survived leaving Africa behind for England, tells of her young heroine's passage with a knowing wit that is simultaneously sharp and gracious, in a coming-of-age story with a brilliant edge.
A semiautobiographical first novel about a Nigerian girl's adjustment to life at an English boarding school, this is an affecting and mordant appraisal of British social mores of the '50s. Remi is six when she is deposited at the upper-crust Chilcott Manor School (where the uniform tunic is ``nigger brown''). There, the former darling of a close-knit and aristocratic Lagos family must endure the scrutiny and derision of her classmates, one of whom spreads the word that ``the black rubs off.'' Tracing Remi's adaptions to life among the British while she maintains the inevitable distance of the outsider, Bedford establishes a simultaneously wistful and cynical piquancy. Even when Remi seems to have fully assimilated, she is asked to dance by a young man who adds, ``Are you considered attractive in your own country?'' Bedford, a native of Nigeria who moved to Britain as a child and now lives in London, has written a wise and provocative book that might even prompt some soul-searching in the social circles she has skewered. (Oct.)