“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side”. This would make a nice tagline for The New Tribe. That or Just live your life, man!
The New Tribe begins when a young couple, Arthur and Ginny Arlington decide to adopt 2 babies Julia and Chester. The story revolves mainly around Chester, the African boy being raised by White clerics in a small white town.
Considering that his is the only black face in town, Chester’s childhood could be described as a walk in the park. At least when compared to the stories we’ve heard of similar experiences. However, relative comfort isn’t enough to keep Chester from longing for more in the sense of belonging. This feeling only intensifies as he grows older.
The fact that he had had “visions” about his true heritage – as a Nigerian prince whose mother had been forced to flee the kingdom to escape his father’s jealous wives – since he was a boy didn’t help.
Over time, one thing leads to another and Chester decides to travel to Nigeria and claim his throne. It’s important to note that he chooses to leave England just when things are looking up for him. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that visions and dreams are unreliable.
Personally, I have a love-indifferent relationship with Buchi Emecheta’s writing, See my review of The Joys Of Motherhood and The Slave Girl, and its only upon reflection 3 weeks later that I can appreciate the deceptive simplicity of this novel.
Having said that, it didn’t take any genius to figure out where the story was heading in the later chapters and the fact that Chester’s experience in Nigeria was pretty much a caricature of all stereotypes about Nigeria/Nigerians makes The New Tribe something of a disappointment.
I believe Buchi Emecheta may have gotten carried away while trying to illustrate how deluded Chester was about his existence, and creating a contrast to his fantasy.
I found The New Tribe incredibly slow-paced and almost gave up on it several times. When you consider the fact that it’s only 154 pages, that’s just not good enough.
The New Tribe by Buchi Emecheta
Release Date: 2000
Find It: Roving Heights
When a baby girl is abandoned at birth, Reverend Arlington and his wife Ginny are only too happy to adopt her. The media cover this moving story, and a Nigerian woman living in England takes more than a passing interest in the Arlingtons. She decides that they would provide the right Christian home for her own baby, Chester. Shortly afterward, Chester is delivered to social services with a letter explaining that the Arlingtons should be his new parents. So young Chester enters the vicarage of the sleepy seaside village of St Simon. He is the only black child for miles around.
“The New Tribe,” tells the story of Chester’s long search for his true identity, and the challenges he faces as a black child in a white family.