MY HEART WILL CROSS THIS OCEAN
My story, My Son, Amadou.
By Kadiatou Diallo and Craig Wolff
One World/Ballantine Books
In February 1999, Amadou Diallo was shot to death by New York City police officers who had pumped 41 shots in him for no apparent reason. The African immigrant, who by all accounts was a man of peace, took center stage in the consciousness of many Americans.
When his mother Kadiatou, arrived from Guinea and forcefully demanded justice for her slaughtered son, she mesmerized the media with her smarts, poise and composure. It incensed her that her son had been painted as an "unarmed street vendor" in the media.
She writes, "This label stole his story. To call him West African revealed nothing. He had lived in three different West African countries, in five different towns or cities in Africa. He had lived in two different cities in Asia, had studied in the best schools in these places, and had been part of a neighborhood in New York for nearly two and a half years, selling, buying, eating, rooting for teams, kicking a ball in playgrounds, going to the movies."
After she returned to Guinea to bury Amadou, she decided that his appropriate legacy would be to foster a better understanding between Africans and Americans.
Those who expected her book to be an intimate revelation of her tumultuous encounters with those who sought to control her destiny in New York will be surprised. Don't expect Diallo to dish on all those who tried to take advantage of her family. Her history, and that of her son, take center stage in this beautifully written book.
Heart starts of with a history lesson. Readers are taken to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Togo and throughout West Africa. By following the trajectory of Kadiatou's life, from her arranged marriage at 13, to her becoming a mother at 16, readers are given a tutorial of the African way of life.
From her taking control of her life as an overwhelmed mother of four on through to her going to Bangkok, Thailand and establishing herself as a gem stone specialist, it is story that is punctuated by pain, with the ultimate pain of outliving a child.
"To sit in the middle of the night and watch your son be carried into the funeral car that should have waited another 80 years for him; if God knows a greater sorrow than this then bind me and take away my eyes so that I will never see it. If someone can dream up a worse torture than crawling up the Fouta Djallon in the middle of the night behind your dead son, then try it on me now and see if I flinch."
This sterling tome is essential reading.