I Am Because We Are: An African Mother’s Fight for the Soul of a Nation by Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr

I Am Because We Are is described as an innovative and intimate memoir. This was my first experience reading a memoir told in a first-person narrative on behalf of the subject and I must admit that I was unsure of this approach. Innovative it was because it worked flawlessly. This is such a beautiful way for Akunyili-Parr to honour her mother, a woman who was such a powerhouse and an inspiration to so many.

Inspired by the African philosophy of Ubuntu — the importance of community over the individual — and outraged by injustice, Dora Akunyili took on fraudulent drug manufacturers whose products killed millions, including her sister. Dora Akunyili faced down misogyny and battled corruption in Nigeria. As someone who grew up in a country riddled with corruption, her stories of resisting the ever-present opportunities to fall into the habit of her predecessors made my heart smile.

“Ubuntu, which has its roots in the Zulu language, and its branches across various African communities, is an ideology of the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of all humankind, upholding and celebrating our co-dependent human community: “I am because we are.”

The positions she took to elevate the reputation of her country and fight against injustice meant that she received death threats and even an assassination attempt. This not only impacted her negatively but also her marriage, the way she parented and her relationship with her children.

The stories followed Dora from childhood, navigating the situations that shaped her into the woman she became and ultimately the sacrifices that came with her wanting to leave the world a better place than she saw it. The underlying message of hope and our capability to do great things when we work as a collective is one that needs to be heard.

The writing style and stories were engrossing, and the short chapters made this an easy book to get through. Each chapter started with an African proverb, and I found myself looking forward to the proverbs in the upcoming chapters. The proverbs ranged from well-known ones such as “It takes an entire village to raise a child” to new to me ones like “A child who is carried on the back will not know how far the journey is”.

Something that will stay with me was when she talked about the years of her life that perfected her adaptability. She talked about her ability to fit anywhere, her ability to morph effortlessly to fit. This is extremely relatable to me because so much of my experiences during my formative years gave me this exact ability. This is not something that a lot of people have had to contemplate.

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Akunyili-Parr wrapped up this tribute to your mother with a refreshing prologue. She presented an image of a complex and flawed woman who had her own shortcomings even while changing the world in which she lived. A far from perfect woman but a great one nonetheless. The ability to honour someone while gently showing their humanity is not often easy to do.  

The world described in I Am Because We Are is so far removed from the world that is familiar to many. For that reason and the fact that this is so beautifully written, I highly recommend this book.

Thanks to Anansi Press for an Advanced Reader Copy of this book.


CHIDIOGO AKUNYILI-PARR is a Nigerian Canadian author, speaker, and consultant with a passion for human development and connection. She is the founder of She ROARs, an organization committed to coaching women of colour around the world to connect to their intuition and purpose. Her work is focused on harnessing the power of our interdependence with a foundation in the humanist African philosophy of Ubuntu, which celebrates our shared humanity. Chidiogo has lived and worked across four continents and speaks seven languages, including Mandarin, German, Spanish, and French, allowing for an even deeper connection with people. She led the growth and impact of the Global Shapers Community across Africa and the Middle East. 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ House of Anansi Press (Jan. 4 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 392 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1487009631
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1487009632

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Neall Calvert
Neall Calvert
March 22, 2022 04:16

Thank you for writing this review and for giving a clear look into a very different kind of life.