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Powder Necklace: A Novel

Powder Necklace: A Novel

4.5 6
by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

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To protect her daughter from the fast life and bad influences of London, her mother sent her to school in rural Ghana. The move was for the girl’s own good, in her mother’s mind, but for the daughter, the reality of being the new girl, the foreigner-among-your-own-people, was even worse than the idea.

During her time at school, she would learn that


To protect her daughter from the fast life and bad influences of London, her mother sent her to school in rural Ghana. The move was for the girl’s own good, in her mother’s mind, but for the daughter, the reality of being the new girl, the foreigner-among-your-own-people, was even worse than the idea.

During her time at school, she would learn that Ghana was much more complicated than her fellow ex-pats had ever told her, including how much a London-raised child takes something like water for granted. In Ghana, water “became a symbol of who had and who didn’t, who believed in God and who didn’t. If you didn’t have water to bathe, you were poor because no one had sent you some.”

After six years in Ghana, her mother summons her home to London to meet the new man in her mother’s life—and his daughter. The reunion is bittersweet and short-lived as her parents decide it’s time that she get to know her father. So once again, she’s sent off, this time to live with her father, his new wife, and their young children in New York—but not before a family trip to Disney World.

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Washington Square Press
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Everything happens for God’s good reason is the clichÉ my mother has drilled in my head since I was old enough to ask “Why?”—but too young to question why she really didn’t seem to believe this was true regarding her and my father. She would go off on these paranoid rants about him and how he had left us. These tirades were always followed with a lecture on how I should let that be a lesson to me about boys, how they only wanted to spoil me (“spoil” being her euphemism for sex), and how much she had sacrificed for my benefit.

She usually got this way after her typically long day at work, a glass of sherry, or a love scene in a television movie. I was smart enough—even at ages four, five, and six—to know I couldn’t help her. So I tuned her out. But when I got older, her tirades sent me into hiccupping, snotty hysterics.

My tears seemed to work like rain in those moments, extinguishing the flames of her bitter outbursts. She’d use the velvety back of her hand, like the windshield wiper on our Opel, to stop each sliding drop until I was calm.

Everything I do is for your good, she’d say.

On those nights, after she turned out the light in my room, I’d pray to God that my mother would be happy. Truly happy. That she would forget about my father. That I would be enough for her. I wanted to be good for her, never disappoint her, never leave her the way my father had.

Every time Mum would rant, I wished my father could be there since it was he who was really her target audience. Mum didn’t mean it when she said to me—practically foaming at the mouth—“Go on. Ask him. Ask him why you only hear from him on your birthday, on Christmas and New Year’s.” I ignored her reverse psychology and went to Auntie Flora to take Mum up on her suggestion to call him.

“It’s complicated, Lila,” Auntie Flora said when I worked up the courage to ask her what had happened between Mum and my father to make her so bitter. She added, not unlike my Mum, “Maybe he can explain to you himself.”

My father’s voice boomed on the other end of the line. I wanted to ask him what he was so happy about. He answered before I could ask.

“Lila! You’re a big sister. Your mother just had twins!” I listened, confused, until I realized he meant his wife, my stepmother, had just had twins.

Tears suddenly seared my eyes like meat in a saucepan of oil and onions. I had called to…now I didn’t know what I had called to hear or say. I wasn’t expecting the jealousy, the outrage.

I handed Auntie Flora the phone, choking on hiccups. My armpits started itching the way they inexplicably do whenever I get freaked out or excited. Auntie Flora’s eyes got big with panic.

We both knew she didn’t want Mum to find me this way. We both knew Mum was always waiting for something bad to happen to me when I was with Auntie Flora. She’d ask, “What happened?” whenever Auntie Flora dropped me off at home, instead of “Did you have fun?”

Of course Mum clapped the knocker on Auntie Flora’s door just at that moment when I had my meltdown. I was relieved to see her even though I knew she’d be furious that I had spoken to my father in her absence. When Mum saw me, she flew to my side and cleared my tears. She looked up at Auntie Flora. “What happened?” When Auntie Flora answered, she led me out of Auntie Flora’s flat to the Opel parked several blocks away without so much as a word.

I didn’t see Auntie Flora again until three years later.

My father still called me on my birthdays, for Christmas and New Year’s, but I got off the phone as quickly as I could from then on.

“We just got on the phone, Lila,” he once said, the boom in his voice slightly diminished.

“I know,” I said cruelly, glancing over at Mum, hoping she was pleased with me for icing my father out.

I lived to please Mum then—even when it stopped being as simple as being mean to my father. That’s why I still don’t understand how she could so abruptly have sent me away.

© 2010 Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Meet the Author

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond has written for AOL, Parenting Magazine, the Village Voice, Metro and Trace Magazine. Her short story “Bush Girl” was published in the May 2008 issues of African Writing and her poem, “The Whinings of a Seven Sister Cum Laude Graduate Working Board as an Assistant,” was published in 2006’s Growing up Girl Anthology. A cum laude graduate of Vassar College, she attended secondary school in Ghana . Powder Necklace is loosely based on the experience.

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Powder Necklace 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Latoya Williams More than 1 year ago
I did not know what to think about the title but I am so glad i read this book! It was beyond hilarious and my favorite read for 2011. Plus I met the author and she is really wonderful.
RWA_Bookclub More than 1 year ago
Young Lila is in for a culture shock when her mother catches her at home after school with a school mate and is convince that the young man will `spoil' her. Almost in an instant she is shipped from the comforts of her strict English home and off to Ghana. The thing that she once took for granted are now the very things that she longs for as she is required to put up with inhumane living conditions. Just when she starts to get used to her new lifestyle she is shipped back home, but even that reunion is short lived when her father decides that it's time for her to meet his side of the family...in New York City. Within one year Lila travels three countries and this is all before she blooms. There are two books that become instant classics for me. One is coming of age tales, there is nothing like a good coming of age tale. The second is a good cultural tale. I found it utterly fascinating how different each culture was, but each held their own cultures and values true and dear to heart. I was in love with how the story was told through this young girls eyes. What was truly amazing to me was how resourceful these young girls were. In their culture, when there is a massive drought and there is no water for baths, these young girls would paint a string of powder around their necks to indicate that their parents shipped them water, even when this was a hoax and they truly didn't have any. I think that every young girl should read this book to see just how privileged they are and how simple things such as a nice shower can be taken for granted. This book was written with the explicit focal point of changing lives and I believe that it will do just that. Reviewed by: Nikkea Smithers RWA Bookclub President
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Justsooze More than 1 year ago
""Powder Necklace" is a powerful story of Lila, a young black girl who comes of age over the course of one year of physical and emotional upheaval. Lila is 12 years old and living in England with her divorced mother. She has little contact with her father who lives in New York and has a new family. When her mother fears Lila is becoming too involved with a boy from her school, she tells Lila she is being sent to live with her father's sister, Auntie Flora, in another part of London. Lila is stunned when her mother actually puts her on a plane and sends her to her mother's sister, Auntie Irene in Ghana, their homeland, "for her own good". There, Auntie Irene enrolls Lila in the prestigious Dadaba Girls Secondary School - a boarding school. Here Lila is taunted and called "Broni" which means white because she comes from England. Struggling to survive amidst the primitive conditions and harsh reality of life at Dadaba, Lila finds kindness and survival in the friendships she makes. Just as quickly as she arrived, she is taken away back to England and then sent to live with her father, his new wife and her half-siblings in New York. A chance encounter there brings Lila and her family back to Ghana. This is the story of a young girl whose life over the course of one year is constantly changing and challenging. It is a triumph of survival and strength. This would be an excellent book for later middle school and high school reading, as well as book clubs."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago