This novel tells the story of Kike who, as a baby, is privately fostered by a white woman while her immigrant Nigerian parents pursue their careers. The placement deposits her firmly between the clashing cultures of black and white, the developing world and the West.
Her growth from infancy to adulthood encompasses classical themes of personal identity, alienation, rapprochement, and partial resolution. However, many other important issues emerge from the interplay and development of the various characters, including the malign legacy of British imperialism. There is suspicion, ignorance and disillusionment but also optimism and genuine efforts to reach understanding. In depicting their common joys, sorrows and fears, the author illustrates that the differences between black and white are only skin deep.
Kike’s experience of fostering and its problems suggest that, from the child’s viewpoint, it is irrelevant whether the placement is private or official. However, political correctness notwithstanding, the novel emphasises the damaging stresses generated by placing children in an alien cultural environment.
Cherish is a valuable and illuminating addition to the literature on culture, race and fostering.
Alison Taylor is a former child care social worker who is now a novelist and journalist.