I’m sure many of you remember a time when your expectations of life abroad were shattered. When reality hit you hard and you quickly realized that everything is not all that you expected. In order to keep up, you quickly had to come to terms with a new reality and readjust in order to adapt to life abroad. Mercy Nduati describes such a journey in her book called “Chasing Wind: From Africa to America in Search of a Dream”. Mercy is a Kenyan American who has been living in the US for the past 20 years. In her debut book, she highlights her journey as she moved to the US in the early part of the millennium for university, and her first hand experiences as a first generation immigrant.
This book is filled with pure vulnerability, honesty and a first hand account of some the struggles encountered by so many immigrants from the continent. I highly recommend this book to Africans in the diaspora, as its an insightful reflection of our shared journeys. We can learn from Mercy’s challenges and be inspired by her tenacity and triumphs. I also highly recommend it to anyone on the continent aspiring to move abroad or anyone interested in having a glimpse of the intricacies of the immigrant life.
So my family and Mercy’s family grew up in the same neighbourhood in Nairobi, Kenya as our dads were colleagues. I can remember some of their visits back home from the US when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Reading the book made me recollect some funny moments from my childhood. I remember the first time Mercy and her older sister Akinyi came back home, my friends and I had a conversation about how “when you go to America, your hair grows super fast!”. Our naive little selves had no idea what other hair extensions existed beyond the braids we used to get during school holidays. Their younger brother Vicky who had also moved to the US would come back home dressed like the hip hop icons we would watch on TV and we thought his swag was the coolest thing since sliced bread. My sister and I were the envy of our friends because Vicky knew our names – well not really, he called us both “Chep” because literally all Kalenjin girl names start with “Chep” but that was close enough for us. He only knew us because my big brother Dennis was best friends with his youngest brother Deejay Wizz, regardless, our neighbourhood coolness was elevated by this association.
Since they were older than us, we didn’t interact much and reading this book gave me a glimpse to what 9 year old me would have never understood at the time. Mercy describes that many of her trips back home were a necessary escape; a break from racist encounters, microaggressions at school and at work, stressful environments of corporate America, and bucket loads of homesickness. The trips back home were needed after coming from a world that showed you that you did not belong, a world where you had to fight to take your space, and a world where you needed to work so much harder than your white peers. The trips back home were a temporary relief.
Of course, I would never have understood then. My 9 year old self just knew that abroad was cool, abroad was fun and when most people went abroad they barely returned (I did not know the complexities of immigration statuses, or how much time and money it would cost just to travel back home). But fast forward to years later, my family moved to Canada and I became an immigrant who would relate to some of the experiences Mercy describes in her book.
The book also challenged me to think about my journey, my goals and my dreams in the diaspora. It’s quite easy to get caught up on survival mode just “chasing wind” as she describes and we can miss the true purpose of our existence and the fulfillment that we seek. You can get a copy of this insightful book from Amazon either on paperback or kindle.