Exploring Identity and Everyday Struggles: Maame by Jessica George


The British literary scene has been experiencing a growing presence of talented young authors with an immigrant background for some decades. This includes an increasing number of female writers, who are undeniably contributing to the diversity of the literary landscape through their particular perspectives. One of the most widely known authors is Zadie Smith, whose debut novel "White Teeth" published in 2000 captivated readers with its exploration of multiculturalism and identity in modern-day London.


Jessica George is a promising young author, whose remarkable debut novel Maame (2023) narrates the life of Maddie, a 25-year-old Londoner, showcasing the universal challenges of young adulthood. The novel portrays Maddie's quest for a career, flat-sharing experiences, looking for love, and her commitment to caring for her father. These themes are universal to many millennials in the western world, but Maddie's Ghanaian heritage, the exploration of her family roots and dealing with their expectations add a distinctive twist to this coming-of-age story.


While Maame may not be an autobiography, it is evident that George and Maddie share many similarities. Both grew up in England as children of Ghanaian migrants, studied Literature, embarked on careers in the literary field, and shouldered the responsibility of caring for a father with a progressive neurodegenerative disease. These shared experiences create an authentic and relatable connection between author and protagonist, lending an added layer of authenticity to the novel. In an interview, Jessica George states:


Both my parents are from Ghana and my grandparents are from Ghana. Me and my siblings are the only ones to ever have been born here, and so I experienced that kind of push and pull of here and there. When my dad passed I had this sudden urge to know everything about him, and then everything about my culture as well, which is a lot. So in the same way Maddie feels like home is London, but deep in her bones she knows her DNA is Ghanaian and she just wants to find a way to bring everything together.



The novel Ordinary People (2018) deals with a similar contemporary topic. Its author is Diana Evans (*1972), the daughter of a Nigerian mother and an English father. The story is told from the alternate viewpoints of the four protagonists – two couples in their thirties leading unassuming lives in the sprawling city of London. Evans explores the realities of living a modern urban life and the complexities inherent in relationships. She describes the struggles of the protagonists, resonating with the shared experiences of countless others in the Western world.  In addition, the story gains complexity through the migrant roots of its protagonists.



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