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Reviews of Daughter in Exile by Bisi Adjapon

Daughter in Exile

A Novel

by Bisi Adjapon

Daughter in Exile by Bisi Adjapon X
Daughter in Exile by Bisi Adjapon
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2024, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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About this Book

Book Summary

The acclaimed author of The Teller of Secrets returns with a gut-wrenching, yet heartwarming, story about a young Ghanaian woman's struggle to make a life in the US, and the challenges she must overcome.

Lola is twenty-one, and her life in Senegal couldn't be better. An aspiring writer and university graduate, she has a great job, a nice apartment, a vibrant social life, and a future filled with possibility. But fate disrupts her world when she falls for Armand, an American Marine stationed at the U.S. Embassy. Her mother, a high court judge in Ghana, disapproves of her choice, but nothing will stop Lola from boarding a plane for Armand and America.

That fateful flight is only the beginning of an extraordinary journey; she has traded her carefree existence in Senegal for the perilous position of an undocumented immigrant in 1990s America.

Lola encounters adversity that would crush a less-determined woman. Her fate hangs on whether or not she'll grow in courage to forge a different life from one she'd imagined, whether she'll succeed in putting herself and family together again. Daughter in Exile is a hope-filled story about mother love, resilience, and unyielding strength.

Sesa Wo Suban
Change Your Character

May 2007

After the trial, I'll no longer be a woman without a country. I'll either live legally in America or be deported back to Ghana within six months. I welcome either choice. I'm weary of peripheral living.

I've never voted in my life. When I was growing up in Ghana, the voting age was twenty-one. By the time they changed it to eighteen, I had already left. In America, I pay taxes but can't vote. I'm a skeleton of a resident without the flesh of belonging.

I've been up since three a.m.

The letter my mother wrote a week ago lies unfolded on my bedside table. I've read it so many times that even when I close my eyes, I can still see the looping cursive swimming before me:

February 9, 2007

My dear Akua,

It is a pity that you have not seen fit to write to me, your mother, for such a long time. I hope you are doing well.

As for me, I am nearing the end of my life. Now my hair has hoary streaks. I am afraid you may never see me again. I don'...

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Reviews

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There is an irony in how we as a society speak of immigrants and their courage while admiring them from afar, and the tropes that portray their resilience in a fantastical way. We don't necessarily examine what they experience hour after hour or see their daily lives clearly, but we lavish heroism upon them. Daughter in Exile is, in a way, a classic story of the American Dream. It is an aspirational tale with a heroine who takes on great risks, suffers incredible losses and stitches herself back together again. But to define the novel as only that is to minimize what Adjapon has delivered to us. In the many things Lola must manage — language, culture, employment — pressure and trauma are forever hanging over her head. In this way, Daughter in Exile is riveting as a cautionary tale, powerful with a raucous pulse and a vulnerable character...continued

Full Review (615 words)

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(Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
Adjapon's dramatic and engaging character-driven story captures the trauma of living as an undocumented immigrant. Lola's fortitude sends a clear message that human kindness and compassion can make all the difference.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[The author] pulls off a strikingly frank portrait of a woman worn down by the system...Adjapon continues to dazzle.

Library Journal
Adjapon's crackling dialogue and barbed humor feel close to the bone. Themes of classism, racism, and fierce feminism will appeal to book groups and readers of Mbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers or Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's Americanah.

Author Blurb Alka Joshi, author of The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
Fast-paced. Riveting. Heartbreaking. Far from the madding crowds of immigrant novels, Adjapon's Daughter in Exile highlights the cultural differences that divide us and, ultimately, the shared humanity that brings us together.

Author Blurb Ayesha Harruna Attah, author of Zainab Takes New York
Daughter in Exile tugs at the heartstrings. Bisi Adjapon's adorable Lola goes through some downright harrowing experiences, but the writing is so smooth, one can't stop reading and rooting for her.

Author Blurb Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, finalist for the Booker Prize
Sensuous and intelligent, insightful, and riveting, Daughter in Exile is a deft exploration of motherhood and love, told through the eyes of a young woman determined to create her world on her terms. Bisi Adjapon uses language like a finely tuned instrument, alternating moments of warmth with devastating revelations about identity, family, and those lies we tell ourselves in order to keep moving forward. This is a must-read.

Author Blurb Oyinkan Braithwaite, author of My Sister, the Serial Killer
Through Lola's heartbreaking plight, Adjapon illustrates the impossibilities of the immigrant experience in America. A thought-provoking read.

Author Blurb Zukiswa Wanner, author of London, Cape Town, Joburg and Goethe Medal Recipient
In Daughter in Exile, Adjapon shows the indomitability of the human spirit while using words sparingly. A fantastic melding of art meeting message, Daughter in Exile is that must-read novel that we didn't know we needed until we got it.

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Beyond the Book

Adoption Outcomes for Birth Mothers

Lola, the likeable and resilient protagonist in Bisi Adjapon's Daughter in Exile, finds herself in multiple difficult situations over a matter of years. At one point, pregnant without a partner after her husband dies, she is left to manage a toddler, her grief and an unborn daughter.

An active member of a parish community, Lola looks to her church to give her the strength to continue. It is there that she is slipped tapes of the American evangelical psychologist Dr. James Dobson arguing that it is better for children to be raised by two parents. Fellow parishioners send Lola messages urging her to not be selfish and give her child a "good home." Guilt coupled with self-loathing gives her the motivation to agree to adoption, and the ...

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Read-Alikes

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