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My Father's Daughter What do you wear to meet your father for the first time In 2004 Hannah Pool knew about next season's lipstick colors than she did about Africa a beauty editor for The Guardian newspaper she juggled lattes and cocktails handbags and hangouts through her twenties just like any other beautiful independent Londoner Her white English adoptive relatives were beloved to her and were all the family she needed Okay if I treat it as a first date then I'm on home turf What image do I want to put acrossClassic rather than trendy and if my G string doesn't pop out I should be able to carry the whole thing off Contacted by relatives she didn't know she had she decided to visit Eritrea the war torn African country of her birth and answer for herself the daunting uestions every adopted child asks Imagine what it's like to never have seen another woman or man from your own family To spend your life looking for clues in the faces of strangersWe all need to know why we were given up What Hannah Pool learned on her journey forms a narrative of insight wisdom wit and warmth beyond all expectations When I stepped off the plane in Asmara I had no idea what lay ahead or how those events would change me and if I'd thought about it too hard I probably wouldn't have gotten farther than the baggage claim A story that will send shivers down your spine The Bookseller My Fathers' Daughter follows Hannah Pool's brave and heartbreaking return to Africa to meet the family she lost and the father she thought was dead

10 thoughts on “My Father's Daughter

  1. Nabse Bamato Nabse Bamato says:

    This is an extremely difficult review to write Not because the book was bad far from it No reviewing it is difficult because the story it tells is so incredibly personal the writing is so honest and the experiences it relates go right to the core of the author's identity Any criticism would feel like a belittlement of what the writer is describing and as such than 'just' being a criticism of how she writes would feel like a comment on who she is So deep breath here goesMy Fathers' Daughter is the story of Hannah Pool a successful British journalist who many will recognise from her writing in a national newspaper Hannah was born in a small village in a remote part of Eritrea but when her mother died giving birth to her spent the first few months of her life in an orphanage She was soon adopted by a white British couple and taken to live in Manchester in the UK via extended stints in Sudan and Norway always believing that both her parents were dead One day though she receives a letter from her brother in Eritrea and discovers that her father is in fact still alive After a monumental personal struggle she heads off to Eritrea to meet the family she didn't know she had This book describes those experiencesAs you can imagine this all makes for a pretty intense read However Hannah Pool's writing style manages to make the book very accessible and there are touches of real humour throughout All I feel is numb I have felt emotionally involved watching Eastenders; Suddenly I am gripped by a Daily Mail like panic which serve to lighten the mood She successfully explores all kinds of issues which people who have not had her experiences for example me may not even have thought of as issues From growing up dark skinned with white parents and siblings; to deciding what significance wearing her hair in an Afro would have at home or in Eritrea; to feeling jealous of her sister who grew up in poverty for not having been given away and struggling with the guilt that that thought brings knowing that she is the fortunate one; to seeing the bed where her mother died in childbirth and addressing the knowledge that she effectively killed her; to trying to manage the sense of betrayal towards her adoptive father that visiting her biological family brings the uestions are addressed openly honestly and movingly throughout Nothing is too uncomfortable for her to examine and at the end of the book I was left with an overwhelming admiration for the huge strength of character she shows in laying all this out in the open for anyone to readAnd now for the difficult bit I am not going to give five stars I'd like to give 45 but am not able to So it's a 4 This is nothing to do with the content of the story which is gripping It also has nothing to do with the way the author expresses herself which is lucid clean and entertaining or with the emotional content involved I really struggled to look nonchalant when reading on the bus The only reason I am knocking it down albeit not much is because I felt that towards the middle of the book the pace suffered slightly through a little too much introspection And that is why it's a hard review to write The self examination is essential to the book and is one of its great strengths However I did feel that a short section when Hannah is in a hotel in Asmara waiting to meet her family could have been shortened slightly just to keep the story moving That is the only thing I would change in this bookHannah Pool has written an eye opening fascinating and intensely honest and moving account of meeting her birth family for the first time I admire her courage enormously for undertaking the visit to Eritrea; for facing her demons head on and for writing it all down and inviting everyone else in to experience her most personal thoughts and feelings with her I challenge anyone to read this book and remain unmoved Hats off Big time

  2. Emma Deplores Censorship Emma Deplores Censorship says:

    This is a very readable and engaging memoir about a British journalist’s trip to Eritrea to meet her birth family As a baby Hannah Pool was adopted from an orphanage by a white couple then working in Sudan She grew up primarily in England and had no contact with her birth family until age 29 when she finally followed up on a letter a brother had sent her a decade before Meeting a cousin in London ultimately led to her taking a two week trip to Eritrea where she met her biological father several siblings and extended family Initially she arranged to meet the family in the capital Asmara but she wound up traveling to her father’s and sister’s remote villages to see their real lives and the place where she was bornThe book is an emotional memoir than a travelogue whether because the author is an especially sensitive person or because of the emotional nature of her trip probably a combination of the two she has a lot of feelings about everything and describes them in detail This basically works the subject matter is interesting and her writing is clear and engaging and makes for uick reading And we do get the chance to learn about Eritrea along with the author Ultimately though it’s a deeply personal story as the author struggles with her own identity with becoming part of a “new” family without betraying her adoptive father and siblings with trying to connect to family members with whom she has no common language and with her feelings about having been put up for adoptionDespite all that this memoir still feels fairly lightweight It is after all an entire book about a two week visit And it was published a mere two years after the trip an astonishingly uick turnaround especially if we assume close to a year for the editing and publishing process before the book hit the shelves It’s evident that the author was still processing events at the time she wrote it and she seems to struggle particularly with describing the effects of the trip on her life No doubt this was a life changing experience but at the time of this writing she hadn’t yet had the chance to see her Eritrean family again and instead writes about for instance seeking out Eritrean restaurants What I really want to read is the book she writes 20 or 30 years after the trip about how both her biological and adoptive families fit into her lifeThat said I’m glad the author still wrote this book; it provided a few pleasant evenings’ reading for me and would likely offer a much deeper connection for those who share some of the author’s experiences Certainly worth seeking out for those interested in Eritrea or international adoption

  3. Sabrina Rutter Sabrina Rutter says:

    I have read stories about adoptees meeting their birth families and I have watched the shows on television about the same thing Never though did I ever imagine what it might be like for someone who was adopted from a third world country to returne to the strange land of their birth The author is very honest and open about her experience I feel that this womans story is very uniue in that we get to read about an African village from a whole different point of view She is not an aid worker who will make the country seem hot smelly and strange She is not a runaway bride that is now telling her story after becoming a famous model making the country sound like paradise gone wrong Hannah Pool gets to be the outsider not just looking in but being embraced into the intimate lives of African villagers

  4. Cindy Cindy says:

    I throughly enjoyed this book While I am not an Eritrean I lived in Asmara for most of my elementary school years There used to be a US Military base in Asmara called Kagnew Station I remember my time in Eritrea fondly It was Ethiopia when I lived there The revolution was just beginning when we left I left Asmara the year that Hannah was born 1974 I was 12 years old I have been to most of the larger cities she mentioned in the book The towns of Keren and Massawa had recreation areas for US Military soldiers and sailors and their families I spent many happy hours swimming in the Red Sea in Massawa as a child I too can spot an Eritrean anywhere I go Most of my friends from those days can too They are some of the most beautiful people on the entire continent of Africa in my opinion Even though I am a white American I had a special feeling when I lived there A feeling I have never experienced anywhere else I have ever lived It's like a feeling of being grounded to the Earth It's standing in one of the most ancient places in the world and really feeling it I would love to go back some day I'm sure that most of the Eritreans I knew back then are probably no longer alive I know the revolution and continuing war with Ethiopia were and are brutal I really enjoyed this book and thank Hannah for writing it I thought it was excellent I would love to have some Zigni and Injera for dinner again I need to find an Ethiopian restaurant in South Florida I pray some day they will be blessed with peace again Sorry for the randomness of this review I'm just overwhelmed with good memories

  5. DubaiReader DubaiReader says:

    Return to EritreaAround the time I visited Eritrea I read two books one about an Eritrean refugee making the treacherous journey out of Eritrea and the other about Hannah Pool a British journalist who was born in a remote village in Eritrea and adopted from an orphanage leaving a family she had never met They complimented each other and both in their own ways educated me on this country that I knew so little aboutHannah's mother had died giving birth to her and her father who already had a large family put her into an orphanage for care The couple who adopted her were told that her parents were dead and she was adopted into Norway and then UK as the coloured daughter of white parents For many years she had no idea that she had any family other than her adopted one until at the age of 19 she received a letter from her brother informing her that her father was still alive She was dumb struck all these years she had believed that she had no living relatives and here were a brother and father in oneHowever she didn't want to hurt her adoptive father and wasn't sure of her own feelings so it was another 10 years until she followed up on the letter It turned out that she had a cousin visiting London and so her first move was to meet up with him From him she learned that she had many sisters and brothers and that her father was still living At the age of 29 she finally found the courage to make the journey to the land of her birth and meet her large familyThe trip involved a number if issues primarily the fact that she could only communicate directly with family members who spoke English; she had only a few words in her native tongue She also found it very strange to find that after being so obviously black amongst so many whites in her adopted country she now melded with the huge crowd of Eritreans when she arrived at the airport only to discover that there were things about her that they could detect and thus label her as an 'incomer' and put her into another sub set of the populationHer original plan to meet with her family in the capital Asmara developed into a wish to see them in their home villages and see the home where she was born This journey into the hinterlands was my favourite part of the book a fascinating travelogue What she found there was eye opening and made her think again about her wish that she had been allowed to stay with her birth familyThis was a fascinating story told with raw emotion My only issue with it was that Hannah spent a bit too long on some of the emotional issues shall I leave this room no I'll just stay here but I must gonot a literal uote until the repetition became irritating Otherwise an excellent view into adoption into a different coloured family and the reunion with family that she had long believed deadAlso readParadise Denied by Zekarias Kebraeb 5stars

  6. Laurie Laurie says:

    This book is about a woman who visits her country of birth Eritrea about 30 years after she was adopted by English parents I learned a lot about what international adoptees might feel and the emotions that surface as they investigate their past and meet biological family members It was especially interesting that she consistently affirms that she wishes she had never been adopted despite what that might have meant being a child soldier dying young poverty etcMy only criticism of this book is that it was 25% plot and 75% feelings and thoughts by the author For example about a dozen times she talks about how she feels like tracing her birth family was a huge betrayal of her adoptive dad There are just tons of pages filled with her thoughts and feelings and it's uite repetitive

  7. Sofia Sofia says:

    Ι would put 3 stars for the literature part of this book The language didn't really impress me But the story is powerful and interesting A very personal story that becomes important especially as a window for white western people to lives and experiences with different challenges then we know I feel very grateful the author decided to write her story One of these books who broaden horizons 100% Not only learning about a little country we don't talk much but also about heritage adoption belonging family and identity

  8. Carmen Carmen says:

    The tracing dilemma goes to the heart of what it means to be adopted uestions of blood and identity of what makes someone family and what it means to be a parent or a child all come to a head when tracing is brought into an already heady mix If my birth father is still alive whose child am I?

  9. Senayet Senayet says:

    My Fathers' Daughter by Hannah Pool was a well thought out memoir She took us on a journey through her experience of adoption and retracing her roots The true details of what it was like to be face to face with the family that gave her up nearly 30 years ago This book deserves 4 stars because I felt like I was in Hannah's shoes and a part of her journey back home She shared what it was like to live in a household where no one looked like her in a very respectable manner I enjoyed reading her memoir in a humors way She was able to bring light to her situation and not feel as though she would never be able to find her true identityImagine what it's like to never have seen another woman or man from your own family To spend your life looking for clues in the faces of strangersWe all need to know why we were given up Hannah Pool Although she came to realize that it was actually in her interest to be adopted given the financial circumstances her biological family endured she still needed answers as to why it was her and not her other siblings Who she belonged to where she came from and her blood relatives uestions which she had been receiving all her life but didn't have the answers to In class we just got done with writing children’s stories One of the difficult topics to explain to children was adoption Children who are given up for adoption live their lives wondering why they were separated from their family They want to know if it was their fault or if they could have done something differently in order to prevent the adoption This book is great for teenagers who want to know about others around them and how someone's life can change if they are given up for adoption Or what it's like to live in a household with people you don't look like while knowing you have family across the country and you don't even know their names or what they look like

  10. Dulcie Pavuluri Dulcie Pavuluri says:

    An amazing first person account of a life not lived and another path to reliving it It is one of the best memoirs I have read In most part I think it is because she tells the story through her own eyes and not those of others or even herself in an awkward formation of description and detail I can't tell you much about this story but I think that it applies to many of us in some form or other She lives one life while thinking of another and has the chance to actually live it While living it she learns about herself and the life she has lead and will lead in the future; not a gift many of us get All I can say is that I hope you read this book with eyes wide open and look at your life through the vision this memoir gives you This author gives us something not many memoir writers can a view into our own lives through hers and the lives she has and could have lead Perhaps you need ot be a certain age to read this but i think if you are open enough Pool can get you to think about life and those lives around you without much effort simply because she told the story in first person; not your typical memoir of today but one that allows you to live in her skin and experience all she has to offer Without the ending I can't tell you much but she was adopted from Africa lived in Britain and then went back to where she was adopted from and returns to think about all her lives actually lived and those that could have been and the one she now lives because of the mixture of the two Give it a try but be open to applying it to your own life This is a book I think that was overlooked by previous reviewers hopefully one day it will gain the acclaim and mass awareness that it deserves

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