Have you ever read a book that evoked so much emotion that you felt it was familiar and it made you shed a tear? That hasn’t happened to me in ages. Daughter begins with the story of Miriam and her daughter Aya. They are keeping things together and getting on the best they can with no other family links. One night Aya goes out for her usual run and doesn’t come back. She is shot down by a police officer who mistakes her for a young black male suspect in a recent robbery in the area. Aya is wearing a hoodie and listening to music, so doesn’t hear the officer approaching her. As she turns and sees the officer she reaches in her pocket to turn off her music and the officer assumes she is reaching for a gun and shoots her. From there the story of Miriam and Aya unfolds.
Miriam is a beautiful woman who is no longer living life to the fullest. She is overwhelmed by life’s disappointments. It’s as if she has made a pact with God to keep her and Aya safe if she upholds the highest standards of living – work, school, and church. This means she expects the same from her daughter. Problem is her connection to her daughter is minimal. Miriam doesn’t have time for the attention that her daughter so craves. Aya on the other hand finds her mother cold without feeling. Aya doesn’t think her mother listens to her and secretly wishes for her father’s return. Miriam wants to speak with Aya and understand her, however she refuses to tell Aya the complete family story, specifically about her father because she wants to protect her. Nevertheless, this has its consequences.
Daughter is a perfect story about the roles of black women and men in the family and mother-daughter relationships. It covers the difficulty of blacks to be seen as human trying to get better jobs and support their families. Police brutality is a constant underlying theme, along with its impact on families and the black community. Currently, there are often stories on the news and online about unarmed black men and women who have fallen victim to unmindful police officers. This is nothing new in the U.S.. It’s been going on for a long while now. “Since 1990, at least 2,000 people have been killed by law enforcement in the U.S. Most of these people were black or Latino. Most were unarmed.” (Daughter, p. 260) The author, Asha Bandele, writes about the fall out from police brutality, through the development of Miriam’s character. We see her change so much – from the naive over-positive adolescent to hard-working, silenced mother to destroyed and finally redeemed.
The structure and language of Daughter help depict the emotions and reality of the story. The utilization of italics is inner thoughts and poetic passages, while blank pages after certain sections show a shift in the story or show something important is about to happen. Bandele’s writing style flows beautifully and paints an exact picture of what she wants the reader to see. This could easily be based on someone’s life story because it’s told with such attention to detail that nothing seems to be out-of-place.
Asha Bandele is a journalist(editor for Essence magazine) and writer. She wrote her first memoir in 1999 called The Prisoner’s Wife, which is about her relationship and marriage to a prisoner serving a minimum sentence of twenty years. She also wrote short stories like The Subtle Art of Breathing and short story collections and poems, Absence in the Palm of My Hands and Other Poems. I’m looking forward to trying any one of these just to experience the quality, relevance, and sensitivity of her writing again. Check out the video below to hear Bandele talking about writing. It’s really pertinent.
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