Gods of Noonday: A White Girl's African Life  

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Born into a white family of medical missionaries living in Nigeria in 1954 but hailing from the American South, Elaine Neil Orr was given two African names. The hospital staff dubbed the child: Bamidele and Funmilayo. “Bamidele” meant to her mother “born away from home,” but there were other meanings that, in time, the blond gangly girl would learn: “come home with me” or “follow me home” — spoken with arms outstretched, beckoning. “Funmilayo” translates simply: “she brings joy.” While the U.S. was entering the Civil Rights Movement, Nigeria was in the midst of a national clamor for independence from Great Britain. Nigerian history and details of Yoruba culture Elaine Orr didn’t need to study, since she lived them as a girl. But when she became herself a young wife and mother with a forward-moving career, she faced diabetes and later kidney failure. As she started her dialysis and patient wait for transplants, she began to live a Yoruba concept held deep in her bones: to journey forward you must journey back. She realized that only through recovering the homeland she left in her teens, could she find the strength to survive.

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