Review: I Am Ayah

I AM AYAH: The Way Home - Donna Hill

Sideways Books


Brenda Larnell (A++)


REVIEW: I AM AYAH is a masterpiece of African American Historical Fiction that chronicles the journey of an African American woman who stops running away from family and home long enough to find her way home. Alessandra Fleming, a professional photographer, travels back to Sag Harbor, her hometown, when her estranged father is hospitalized from a stroke. For Alessandra, going home is a chance to make amends for staying away so long and to reunite with her father. However, as we take the journey with our heroine, we will discover, just as Alessandra does, that the way home is complex, all things that were hidden must come to the light, and the past must align with the present. I like Alessandra’s character, who finally pieces together her family history with the help of a wise neighbor, Mrs. O, and her grandson, Dr. Zach Renard, the man who captures Alessandra’s heart, and who happens to be a highly regarded anthropologist.

What is equally important in this engrossing story is the story-in-the-story. The historical narrative that the author weaves throughout the book is so ingenious and so ensconced in the storyline that I came to the conclusion that Alessandra is not the only heroine who emerges from this book. She literally stands with her ancestors. The flashback narratives of the famous Sengbe Pieh, aka Cinque and La Amistad (1839), and the Tulsa Massacre (1921) play integral roles in Alessandra discovering who she is and from whom she descends. It’s going to blow your mind! In a moment of impeccable writing clarity, the awesome Donna Hill merges the past with the present, and the reader is privileged with that “Aha moment” when a chest of ancestral treasures is uncovered, and everything comes together. You too will declare: “Say her name!” You’ll get that when you read the book.

I love how Alessandra’s quest to discover her ancestry melds with her present-day situation and connects with her future goals of allowing her past to define who she is. What is more, is that Zach’s ancestors are embedded in Alessandra’s family tree, and the connection is another take-your-breath-away moment. He is right by her side assisting and encouraging Alessandra every step of the way. His skills as an anthropologist who studies forgotten communities are invaluable to Alessandra’s search to find “the way home”.

Talented and prolific author, Donna Hill is to be commended for this gripping story that will capture you from the first page to the last. I highly recommend it for your reading pleasure. You will not want to put it down. You can thank me later.

22nd May 2023 |