My book review of 'My name is why' by Lemn Sissay

My name is why

by Lemn Sissay
My name is why
by Lemn Sissay

One of the nation's best-loved poets, Lemn Sissay reflects on his childhood where he was placed in foster care as a baby and then, at 12, moved to children's homes. Only at the age of 17 was he given his birth certificate.

He learned then that his name was Lemn Sissay, not Norman Greenwood by which he'd been known. He was British and Ethiopian, and his mother had been pleading that he should be returned to her since his birth.

Yet Lemn had been fostered by a couple who subsequently went on to have three children of their own and who then demanded that he be removed from their care. In children's homes, the 12-year-old boy had to contend with this rejection and also with racial discrimination and abuse.

It's a horrifying account of the failings of the care system in so many ways. It's haunting and troubling, though beautifully and powerfully told. The book ends with examples of Lemn's poetry and details of his work seeking to help other people leaving care. It's a challenging and sobering read.

Review date: August 2020