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My imagination went into overdrive trying to picture a girl like me living inside my beloved books.By the time I was twelve, I had discovered Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and the Brontë sisters.
I spent one summer with my father in Brooklyn and determined to build a life there. But what differentiates me from most other immigrants — and what binds me more closely to my black ancestors — is the fact that I am also a descendant of those enslaved Africans who were forced to pass through that infamous Door, one of dozens found in the fortresses that once dotted the west coast of Africa.
The First Family visited Cape Coast Castle during the President’s 2009 trip to Ghana; an African American tourist who witnessed the Obamas’ visit testified to the power of that moment: “The world’s least powerful people were shipped off from here as slaves.
My mother’s maternal ancestors were African American slaves who bought their freedom and arrived in Ontario in 1820.
I left Canada at age twenty-one not because of political persecution but because I was unhappy and could only envision a better future for myself somewhere else.
The door out of which Africans were captured, loaded onto ships heading for the New World. I grew up in a former British colony, dreaming of magical wardrobes and secret gardens.
It is a door which makes the word door impossible and dangerous, cunning and disagreeable.—Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return I am an immigrant.The place where all names were forgotten and all beginnings recast.In some desolate sense it was the creation place of Blacks in the New World Diaspora at the same time that it signified the end of traceable beginnings. When he was fifteen, my father migrated to Canada from a small island in the Caribbean; after forty years in Toronto, he moved once more to start a new life in New York.I started high school that same year, and my essays took on a formal tone and were sprinkled with archaic words (such as gaoler for jailer).When asked to make a picture book in my senior creative writing class, I wrote a story about a white family that neglects its youngest member; when little Violet goes outside to play with the wind, she grabs hold of a neighbor’s kite and is swept away. They were not, however, much of a mirror for my young black female self. Doors figured rather prominently in my imagination, and books were indeed windows into other worlds.I learned early on that only white children had wonderful adventures in distant lands; only white children were magically transported through time and space; only white children found the buried key that unlocked their own private Eden.Perhaps the one benefit of being so completely excluded from the literary realm was that I had to develop the capacity to dream myself into existence.In a way, I was seeking asylum when I moved to the United States, but I was also aware that the circumstances behind my decision to leave were not dire.I was not a refugee; I wasn’t fleeing the prospect of starvation as my Irish ancestors had in the late nineteenth century.