Like A Lily Among Thorns

Colonial African Village Child Transitions To Post-Colonial Modernity, And America

Non-Fiction - Memoir
348 Pages
Reviewed on 08/16/2014
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Author Biography

Professor Inno Onwueme is a creature of transition in both time and space. He lived through both sides of the time divide between colonial rule and his nation’s independent existence. For him, the national transition ran in parallel with a personal space transition from the African village to America, from the most traditional of African societies to the razzle-dazzle of 1960’s California. An award-winning author, he brings his decades of cosmopolitan academic insights to explore the interplay between global events and his early personal life. He is globally traveled, with a multi-cultural tendency, exemplified by his ability to speak six languages from Africa, Europe and Asia/Pacific. Versed in African proverbs, his intriguing personal story mirrors the metamorphosis that shaped Africa and the world in the mid-20th century. Dr. Inno is active in issues of international sustainable development, and resides near Washington DC, USA.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Faridah Nassozi for Readers' Favorite

Like A Lily Among Thorns by Inno Chukuma Onwueme is a true life narration of a man's incredible journey from childhood to adulthood and from Africa to America and then back. Born into a poor Nigerian village family, nothing had come easy for Onwueme. His parents always struggled to make ends meet and even providing the basic needs was difficult. So, from a very young age, Onwueme knew that nothing would be handed to him on a silver platter and that he would have to work really hard if he was ever to become something. Against all odds, he managed to finish secondary school, but then there was the question of university as there was no way his parents could afford to pay for him. But then God smiled in his direction and he finally left Nigeria for the U.S. where he studied and stayed for seven years at a time when America was witnessing some of its most phenomenal historical events, including the assassination of JFK and the beginning of the legend that was Martin Luther King.

Like A Lily Among Thorns is an inspirational story about hope, hard work, endurance, transformation and chasing dreams, even when the odds are not at all in your favour. In the first part of the book, amidst the hardships and all the struggles for basic human needs that Onwueme's family had to endure, I was introduced to the unique West African cultural practices, the beautiful traditional African family setting and family values that make very life interesting. It was also very inspirational to see how these families lived and enjoyed their lives, almost oblivious to what many of us will consider very hard living conditions. The move to the U.S. also opened a new and equally interesting chapter in Onwueme's life and it was really exciting to see him adjust to this very radical change in lifestyle. This is an amazing life story. I loved reading it and appreciated the various lessons I took from Onwueme's life journey.

Mamta Madhavan

Like A Lily Among Thorns: Colonial African Village Child Transitions To Post-Colonial Modernity, And America by Inno Chukuma Onwueme is an engaging memoir that speaks about the author's transformation from an African village boy to that of a cosmopolitan man in the United States of America. He shares the stories of his life with his loved ones and a broader audience. This exciting book shows history in a different light. The author's contrasting lives in an old African village riddled with poverty, ignorance and disease and his life in California make quite an interesting read. Certain parts of his book have historical narration and in some parts it is intimate, personal, reflective and opinionated.

The book includes African proverbs that are interesting to read. The author captures his early life there well. He also speaks of his various hurdles in life and how he refused to get bogged down with obstacles to making his life successful. It gives readers a positive message to not give up in life and to chase their dreams. The story of the author is inspirational and uplifting and the pictures he has shared with readers make it easy for them to connect with the author. The narration is descriptive and readers will have to remind themselves that it is not just a story, but something that really happened.

Maria Beltran

Inno Chukuma Onwueme’s book Like A Lily Among Thorns is the story of a little African boy who grows up in the backwaters of a small tradition-rich African village. Born in May 1944, in Onicha-Ugbo, it is difficult to imagine the life that he will eventually live. His father is determined that his precocious son gets a higher education. Thus begins his journey from his colonial African village to post-colonial modernity as he ends up in the United States of America. The journey is rich with stories of boyhood dreams and ambition, poverty, deprivation, success, failures, wars, academic achievements, love, family, and the constant struggle of having one foot firmly in one continent and another foot finding its balance in another continent. As we follow the path with him, we also experience the metamorphosis that he has to go through and bear the burden of a man who straddles two cultures as he makes the best out of what life can offer him.

Like A Lily Among Thorns is the memoir of Inno Chukuma Onwueme. The first few chapters of the book give us a good glimpse of how it is to grow up as a poor boy in a little village in Africa in the mid-1940s. Written in the first person perspective, it is a vivid recollection of his early years that is rich, vibrant and pure. One can almost imagine the African village and the little boy who walks a long way to school every school day, fetches water from the river, goes to the market with his mother, and helps his teacher father on their farm. On June 10, 1963, he departs for the US on an ASPAU scholarship and his life takes a completely different turn. It is this juncture of his life’s journey that gives us a bird’s-eye view of what a young African man goes through as he prepares to see the world to fulfill his dreams and, at the same time, leaves behind a family, a country and a continent where his heart will always belong. It is amazing how author Inno Chukuma Onwueme remembers all the little details of a life that is so rich; one would be tempted to say this is a life journey that should be shared with all kinds of readers.



Like a Lily Among Thorns
by Inno Chukuma Onwueme – (AuthorHouse)
reviewed by John E. Roper for US REVIEW OF BOOKS

To chronicle a land and way of life that have altered greatly over the last several decades, the author has written an excellent memoir of his early years that is as informative as it is entertaining.
Born in 1944 in the Western Region of Nigeria, the author begins his story with memories of his life as a village boy in Colonial Africa. From the start the reader is catapulted into a world where the Catholicism of Onwueme's family exists in fragile peace with the Animism of neighbors and certain relatives, a land where young children run naked and cavort in the same stream where their mothers are washing clothes, dishes, and retting the starch from cassava, and where political rumblings against the Colonial powers are getting louder. After getting accepted into an overseas study program, the author leaves this life behind for the cultural transformation of America during the turbulence of the 1960s. On his return to his homeland via Europe in 1970, with a Ph.D. attached to his name, Onwueme is once again confronted with societal changes as he is greeted by a post-independence Nigeria that has recently emerged from civil war.
With superb narrative skills reminiscent of those his countryman Wole Soyinka used in his own autobiography, Onwueme recalls key moments from his life on three continents while offering valuable and insightful snapshots of the time period.
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