I have very distinct childhood memories of my parents waking me and my younger brother up early—I’m talking 6 to 7 a.m.—to speak to a relative on the phone. Bleary eyed, we’d groggily say “Hello?” and try to hear what was being said to us over a crackingly phone line before an automated voice told us how much time was left on my parents’ calling card, or, more commonly, the line cut out.
These moments reminded me that I wasn’t the same as my African-American classmates. (Well, that and the long list of things I wasn’t allowed to say, do, or watch.)
Being a Nigerian-American first-gen kid in Missouri, my connection with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents depended on poor-connection phone calls and visa lottery luck. There were a lot of things about my culture and family I didn’t learn—or knew, but took for granted—until I got older and got to visit and interact with my Nigerian family and other first-gen kids.
Margeaux Johnson Weston’s book Auntie’s Crown would’ve been nice to have when I was a kid.
Will illustrations by the incomparable Sharee Miller of Coily and Cute, Auntie’s Crown tells the story of Femi, a shy little boy overwhelmed by the seemingly sudden arrival of his extended Nigerian family members to his home in America.
Aunts, uncles, and cousins are in town for his Auntie Cynthia’s wedding. The event provides an opportunity for Femi to learn about his family and Nigerian traditions.
Margeaux—a writer, editor, and teacher—wrote the book with her oldest child, now 10, in mind. When his father died in 2014, she wanted to help him connect with his identity as a Nigerian-American boy.
“Whenever his grandmother came from Nigeria, she had the head dress on and he was like, ‘What is that?’” she tells mater mea. “He found out, ‘Hey, that’s a part of me. That’s what people wear.’ He’s super proud now.”
In Auntie’s Crown, Femi’s favorite aunt, Auntie Koy, tells him about the traditions seen in Nigerian weddings.