Gods of Noonday: A White Girl's African Life

Elaine Neil Orr, Author University of Virginia Press $29.5 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8139-2209-6
Though Orr's experience as an""MK,"" or missionary kid, in Nigeria in the 1950s and '60s was in many ways less exotic and foreign than one might expect, most Americans do not complete high school amid successive governmental coups and political chaos. Orr's acute memory and reflective contemplations about life in her beloved Africa in those formative years give readers an intricate picture of an unusual upbringing blended with an adult's take on the cultural changes in the world beyond the missionary compounds where her family was posted. The North Carolina State University professor of literature and women's studies brings a critical eye to her cherished childhood world, showing that many of the pressures of early adolescence and high school (most of which she completed in a Nigerian missionary boarding school) she endured are strikingly familiar to American schoolchildren's experiences. She interweaves the story of her recent serious illness (a disease resulting from diabetes), which clearly created a longing for the familiarity and safety of her childhood. While Orr's recent troubles seem mercifully to have been alleviated, she clearly found some healing in poring through her past. Looking at pictures of Africa, she thinks,""I could die and be satisfied because once I knew a place of such stunning grace that my life has already been fulfilled."" This memoir is much more personal and painterly than it is politically or historically charged, and would not lose any of its charm for losing a third of its length.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8139-2510-3
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