I had the pleasure of interviewing first time author Adekunle Ige on his new memoir, Idendity: The Life and Times of a Lost Soul. When Ige first told me he was writing his memoir, I thought wow he is awfully young to write a memoir, but when he sent me a chapter to read I realized he has lived a complicated life filled with joy, trauma, and pain.
Identity is about Ige’s life as a Nigerian kid that grew up in the rough and unforgiving streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with dreams of living in sunny California. Ige tells the story of struggling with feeling accepted by his peers while facing social ridicule and experiencing self-hate as a result. Ige’s journey around his identity is a journey about where he fits in the world and how to develop a strong sense of self in a world that is often unkind to black boys. The only way Ige can discover himself is to live in pure honesty. His journey is riddled by traumatic experiences that changed his life forever.
I had a chance to chat with Adekunle Ige about his latest book. Check out our interview below:
TCK: If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be.
AI: I would tell my younger self, that you have all the answers, but none of them. I am a person not a joke and you never are as good as people may say and you are not as bad as people may say. Most importantly you can make it through anything.
TCK: When did you learn that words have power.
AI: Elementary school was when I learned that words have power. Words have the power to change point of views. I learned how to use my words to make people laugh and sorta became the class clown in school.
TCK: What role did religion play in your family life.
AI: My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness. We would go to church on Sunday’s with my maternal grandmother. We were raised to believe there is something greater than ourselves. My father still reads the bible every night and prays daily.
TCK: You talk about the way that you were bullied by your peers and adults about your name. Tell me more about the impact of that.
AI: People still at times mispronounce my name. Sometimes people still say ignorant statements, but the impact was not like it was when I was a child. Once a teacher told me my name had too many letters. My name was misspelled in a yearbook. As a child that always left me feeling less than important.
TCK: What have you learned from writing this book:
AI: One day I was driving home from work and literally started crying and I allowed myself to grieve all the things I had to fight and one of the biggest things I gained insight about was there was a period in my life where I kept making the same mistakes over and over again. I saw the patterns.
AI: Yeah you could see the pathology and patterns.
TCK: What do you want readers to take from your book.
AI: No matter what you are going through stay true to yourself. It is okay to be vulnerable and every decision you make is the best decision you can make for yourself.
Here is a excerpt from Identity.
“My mother struggled with a catatonic schizophrenia, which is a psychiatric disorder. Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but maybe unfamiliar with catatonia, which is a state of psychomotor immobility and behavioral abnormality manifested by a stupor. A stupor is the lack of critical mental function and a level of consciousness wherein a sufferer is almost entirely unresponsive and only responds to base stimuli such as pain.
When my mother had cantatonic episodes, we didn’t understand what was happening. To me, it seemed like she was just ignoring us. It felt like we caused her so much stress that she was taking a mental vacation instead of giving us a beating. As a elementary school kid, I didn’t know what to do in those moments. I just thought she wanted alone time and did not want to be disturbed.
I was eight years old the very first time I noticed there was a problem. One day, after watching Saturday morning cartoons with my little brother, which was routine, I went upstairs around 11 AM to ask my mother if we could go outside. There my mother sat on her bed facing a wall virtually motionless and expressionless. At first, I thought she was praying or meditating or simply thinking. I decided to leave her alone. I went outside to play with my friends in front of the house, so I would be able to hear if my mother called me. After a few hours, I went back to the house to see if she was making lunch. She was not in the kitchen or in the living room. I went back upstairs to her room, as she was still sitting in the same position. After calling her name a few times with no response, I became very alarmed. She had been sitting there for hours.”
Adekunle writes a superb coming of age story around his Identity. This book is a revelation and would be a great Christmas present to anyone in search of understanding their own identity or if you or a family member struggle with mental health.
You can follow Adekunle on Twitter and click on the link to purchase Identity on Amazon.
About the Author:
Adekunle holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Adekunle provides mental health support and coaching to at risk youth in the Bay Area. Adekunle is a actor and writer. He resides in the Bay Area with his wife and son.
Ms. Culture Keeper-