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Race, Family Relations, and the Politics of Childhood in Gabriel Gbadamosi's Vauxhall.

Decades of West African migration to the United Kingdom and numerous intermarriages have resulted in family structures that show the complexity of ethnic and racial parenting.

Gabriel Gbadamosi's novel Vauxhall (2013), told from the perspective of a child whose father was born in Nigeria of Yoruba ethnicity and whose mother is Irish, exemplifies how racial understandings are constructed through seemingly innocent eyes that nevertheless discern the dynamics and tensions within families and communities. Called "A tenderly observed, fascinating portrait of a childhood in South London" (Morrison), the novel, set in Vauxhall, a working-class community known for its diverse population, develops a narrative voice that replicates the thought and emotional processes of childhood consciousness.

Vauxhall is the setting, as well, for another novel detailing the Irish presence in London, Kate Pullinger's When the Monster Dies (1989), where the community is described as "a lexicon of public housing fashions, ravished by architects and their draftsmen's hallucinations, misconceived from the first foundation stone" (Pullinger 25). In that novel, the neighborhood is viewed as the vestiges of the 1800s and the 1930s, where the main character, Mary, lives in a dwelling that was "one of the few survivors from that era and it was surrounded by the monumental blocks of council flats built in the 1930s" (Pullinger 25).

A first novel for poet and playwright Gbadamosi, himself the product of Yoruba-Irish ancestry, Vauxhall might be categorized or marketed as Black British fiction, but this labeling does not necessarily explain the way the narrative structure is meant to explore areas beyond racial identification. Furthermore, certain authors eschew categorizing labels, though such identifications can be useful in the marketing of publications and authors. Gbadamosi was part of the Breaking Ground: Black British Writers U.S. Tours, organized by Sharmilla Beezmohun, among others, part of the Speaking Volumes Live Literary Productions, which visited such locations as Charlotte, South Carolina, in 2015.

Gbadamosi's novel, though not admittedly semi-autobiographical, suggests other works by British authors of Nigerian descent dealing with a main character of "mixed-race" heritage, such as Bernardine Evaristos Lara (2014), acknowledged being semi-autobiographical. Evaristos work is in verse and goes beyond the childhood perspective. Also, Zadie Smith's much celebrated debut novel, White Teeth (2000), uncovered complex and often humorous multi-ethnic and multi-racial family relationships in London. In addition, James Joyce's Dubliners (1914), some of which is told from the perspective of youth, is also a parallel text in considering the use of narrative voice. Joyce's narrator in the short story "Araby," for example, somewhat older than Michael, the main character in Vauxhall, identifies actions with a kind of youthful innocence. Gbadamosi was challenged with the task of creating the child's voice but with certain "political" and cultural realities of the writer himself. As in the editors' comments in New Writing 12, what is exciting about innovative writing is "the skillful use and exploration of voice" (Adebayo et al. ix).

Although the post-World War II period is the historical backdrop of Vauxhall, the novel is not strictly a work defining the period through the consciousness of a Black British child. The term Black British has been used to address extensively those of Caribbean and African heritage, with perhaps greater emphasis on Caribbean descended populations. As Eva Ulrike Pirker remarks, "black culture and history in Britain were treated primarily as an extension of Caribbean and African cultural expressions" (Pirker 5). Although the marketing of the novel suggested by the cover art identifies the main character as a black youth, the author's intention is not to reify race.

Another of the considerations is the presentation of social issues that affect the lives of adult characters, such as economics, class, culture, and ethnicity, projected through the childhood voice. Translated into French and published by Zoe editions, the novel won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize. One reviewer, Virginie Brinker, writing for the French website Africultures, observed, "It is a story of the past, but not marked by the effects of double register that would be the result of hindsight by an adult" (Brinker). Another observer, Katie Stone, echoed a similar sentiment, suggesting that the novel is "very much a child's view of the world, but written with the knowledge of an adult" (Stone). Given the challenges of writing within the childhood perspective, Gbadamosi confronts such issues as history, race, and class while remaining within the local environment. In this regard, John Ball's comment about local spaces is relevant in that certain writers "must negotiate the materially local urban reality in which they live at the same time as they respond to the ways in which metropolitan space and everyday life signify the global histories and geographies that underlie and transcend the local" (Ball 18).

The Vauxhall environment of the novel contrasts with its seventeenth-century importance as the site of Vauxhall Gardens. Opened in 1660, Vauxhall Gardens was "Laid out with walks, statues and tableau, Vauxhall became the most luxuriant resort. Orchestras played, the fireworks were dazzling, there was dancing, one could sup in gaily decorated alcoves in the gardens-and all for a shilling" (Porter 174). Contrasting sharply with the "Pleasure Gardens" is the image in the novel of bombed out remains of buildings, where '"There was a rusty tin bath upside down, a burnt mattress with springs, a broken television set. It was like being on the moon (Gbadamosi, Uauxhall 87). Of the Vauxhall community, Gbadamosi notes,
    We were black in a white society,
   poor in a class-divided one, rich
   in comparison to the weary,
   downtrodden grind of adult life.
   Stories poured out of us, from
   Jamaica, south Asia, Ireland, west
   Africa, all the places we were from,
   onto the streets of Vauxhall in
   south London where we woke
   up telling ourselves stories about
   where we were. (Gbadamosi,
   "A Palace")

Uauxhall proves that the perspective of a mixed-race youth is valuable in our understanding of social transformations. Following the comments of Chinua Achebe involving concentric circles of identity, Gbadamosi's novel also reveals such configurations: the self, family, ethnic group, community, school, city, and nation ("Writers"). Gbadamosi sustains a childhood level of narrative voice while revealing through subtle allusions, the Irish familial expectations and retentions of Yoruba-Nigerian cultural forms. For example, inserted in the novel are references to Yoruba figures such esu, elements that could be understood by a discerning reader with specific cultural knowledge and with a recognition that the author is mining "part of the ancestral culture" (Gbadamosi, Personal interview).

Furthermore, the novel suggests that mixed-race marriages can be understood not only through the social sciences but through the voice of innocence. In general, interracial marriages have been the subject of increasing study in the uk, researchers connecting their outcomes to such concepts as integration and assimilation. Miri Song notes, "intermarriage is also understood to signal the gradual erosion of the ethnic and racial distinctiveness of minority individuals and groups who partner with, and have 'mixed race' children with, White people" (Song 632). Pertaining to Uauxhall, Ian Thompson, writing for the Spectator, thought Gbadamosi "well placed to chronicle the vagaries of our mixed-up, multi-racial London" (Thompson). While the novel should be examined for its societal perceptions, it also risks being placed within a certain urban literary framework that reinforces stereotypes and impoverishment rather than psychological subtleties. This approach is observable in Imogen Lycett Green's review: "The boy Michael lives in a rat-infested, overcrowded house in Vauxhall in the Seventies" (Green). Examined in relation to economic class, the novel also allows for interpretations of community relationships in a working-class environment, where the boundaries are set by the limits of childhood wandering and border crossings. Gbadamosi uses certain geographic markers, such as the locations resulting from World War II devastation, and the Thames, to show how environment can shape childhood conceptions of space and the historical past. This shaping of childhood imagination is also achieved through the development of the main character's relationship to school, the process of education, and the authority of teachers. Regarding Yoruba students in British schools, "On a daily basis, their behaviours and actions are filtered through at least two, and sometimes more, cultural filters" (Olajide x). Though not "fully" Yoruba, Michael, nevertheless, is influenced by certain perceptions gleaned from his relationship with his father.

Overall, the novel moves between the social sphere, the physical urban environment, institutions such as school, and especially family life, all of which generate aspects of "childhood politics," power relations of various kinds understood from the vision of youthful maturation. As Diran Adebayo remarked, "An impressive feat of memory and skill ... the streets, the fraught encounters, the sense of family and growing understandings of youth are winningly brought to life in a series of deft, artful vignettes" (Adebayo, "Book Jacket"). Childhood politics also refers to the power relations between siblings and the position of the youngest voice in relation to an elder brother or sister, and to the way power is understood in social relations. The siblings in the novel include Michael, the youngest and narrative first-person voice; Connor, the eldest brother; Manus, the younger brother; and Busola, his sister.


Although the novel is not explicitly about race, certain moments suggest its presence. Readers, not necessarily professional critics, were informed by the novels treatment of race, as in the post by Scott Manley Hadley referring to the main character, Michael, who is "banned from being friends with other children at school due to the prejudices of the generation above, yet awareness of race is far from the minds of every character under ten" (Hadley). Most important, Gbadamosi's intention is not to isolate race relations or model it after the U.S. binary white-black opposition. Gbadamosi expressed a wide range of ideas concerning issues such as race and class.
    I've seen the dynamic of class
   as well as race in this country.
   But in the book, it's sort of
   disclosed that the real resistance
   is not race, it's profession.
   It's a sort of a discussion of race
   which dismantles the discussion
   of race, which is an interesting
   move from my perspective
   because I'm not too keen on
   race as a concept though I
   understand it exists and from
   which historical reasons.
   (Gbadamosi, Personal interview)

Although racism is clearly evident in the novel, it is not presented as systemic or as what Peter Fryer describes as the way it "poisoned the lives of black people living in Britain" (Fryer xii). There are numerous allusions to race, as when Michael bonds with a white friend, Brian, not realizing certain of Brian's family members are in opposition to the interracial friendship, shown when Brian's uncle uses a racial epithet, "'that fuckin' black cunt"' as he "chucked his drink at [them]" when they entered the house (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 90).

The novel also shows interracial marriage as both conflicted yet sustaining. The expected cultural differences between an Irish mother and a Yoruba-Nigerian father are not strictly the result of the external social pressures of an interracial marriage, but rather interpersonal problems. Issues of assimilation as an element of interracial marriage can also be gleaned from the novel. Social analyses have discussed assimilation in Irish intermarriages, which involves "convergence with the population as a whole, albeit having a working-class and inner-city character" (Muttarak et al 279). (An examination of the obverse flow, African migration to Ireland, can be found in Elisa Joy White's Modernity, Freedom, and the African Diaspora: Dublin, New Orleans, Paris.) A contemporary observer of Nigerian migration, Victor Obasaju noted from interviews he conducted that "While influenced by British culture daily outside the home, Nigerian, particularly Yoruba (a major ethnic group in Nigeria) dominated the household. In his [a 29-year-old male, born in Manchester to Nigerian parents] family, children were instilled with the idea that they were Nigerian and would forever be Nigerian, even if born elsewhere. This sentiment is not uncommon among Nigerian families, with blood being the defining factor of identity, not country of birth" (Obasaju).

Gbadamosi commented on his own family background.
    When we were growing up, to
   be mixed race was really dodgy.
   You didn't quite have a future
   or place in the society and you
   were going to live some sort
   of half-life on the edges of being
   English. That has completely
   changed. The fastest growing
   population in England now is
   mixed race. (Gbadamosi,
   Personal interview)

The novel's portrayal of interracial marriage suggests certain extended family realities and acceptance as when Michael's mother's sister Tess says, '"he leads you a dog's life'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 99). The nuclear element, the defense of the interracial marriage, however, is strongly demonstrated. This situation is perhaps representative of certain so-called mixed marriages, although it is not confined to such marital situations. Michael's mother's response shows the boundaries and tensions: '"This is my marriage. His people don't want it, out there they don't like it, if my own people can't support me, they can go. Is that clear?'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 100). The brief separation of his parents can be attributed to forces within the various levels of family, community, and the broader society.

The other level of perception is that of the community represented by the apartment flats where the dwellings contain families of various cultural backgrounds, including West Indians and Africans. Hie social level, the larger community, and broader social sphere is "out there," where the parents and the children witness differing effects of various social pressures. The way the novel constructs these pressures is often through "adult" conversations, filtered through the narrator and his siblings' level of understanding.

Most important, the novel reveals the siblings' self-identification and perception of their physical selves, especially seen in Busola's desire for an English name, "Kate," not necessarily because her brothers are not known publicly by "African" names. The interaction with her brother Connor, for example, suggests the dilemma of naming and identity, when he remarks, '"You're not English,'" a simple statement that indicates his perception of national identity and perhaps cultural un-belonging. Busola, however, interprets the naming dilemma as a kind of physical burden: '"Why don't you go on lugging an African name'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 96). She is keenly aware that "'None of them,'" referring to her brothers, are called only by an African name (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 96). Busola's conception of her African name could be compared to Irie, the mixed-race daughter in White Teeth, who has her hair straightened to remove the Afro. Irie's remarks to the hair dresser, who says, complimenting her, ""That's half-caste hair for you. I wish mine were like that,'" suggest her own discomfort with her hair; Irie responds, '"I hate it'" (Smith 231).

It is not that the male children in Vauxhall do not have African names, however, but that "When [they] stepped out the door to go to school they switched our names and said, By the way, you're Michael" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 97). The African names of Jimoh, for Michael, Yemi for Manus, and Yinka for Connor are explained by the father's self-determination, his commitment to a Yoruba naming identity: "only our dad called us that anymore" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 97). Busola's association with Africa is negative, her use of the word "Bush" connoting "'Backward,'" an obvious African stereotype. The source of this pejorative concept, however, is drawn from her school associations, where her female classmates "teased" her, asking "if her dad had a tail on him from Africa. Could you see it coming out the back of his trousers?" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 97). Although presented on a level of childhood teasing, this insult runs deeper, emerging from certain racial conceptions and historically demeaning images of Africa. Busola's response to her classmates shows a form of resistance, a challenge perhaps, because by affirming the insult with the statement, '"I said he did"' she deflects the mocking insult by pointing to its absurdity (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 97).

This is one of the defense mechanisms or social adaptations affecting so-called mixed racial youth in predominantly mono-cultural situations, although it should be considered that the community is itself mixed and multicultural ethnically but still with a majority white population. This moment in the novel also shows the intersection of family and ethnicity. When Busola continues to explain the mocking remark and that she had actually said "'it was at the front!'" referring to the tail, she receives a reprimanding slap from her mother, especially because she repeats it using an Irish accent (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 98). This is somewhat of a mother-daughter crisis and raises the question of why the mother is angered by the remark. Busola is a complex character and useful in analyzing the language of insults used against African descended people. Also, at one point the word "niggers" is used as an insult that surfaces after a marital "row" involving Michael's parents and Busola's intervention (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 98). Busola's assuming the name Kate or "Kat," is another angle of her complexity, as when she says to her brother, Connor, "'I'm Kat outside, and Busola inside'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 126).


Furthermore, Gbadamosi's novel shapes the politics of childhood through social gatherings of the extended family. From the perspective of Michael, certain family moments, observations of the adult world, can be linked to social or cultural points of difference. When his mother returns from the separation and he observes that there "were lots of cars," he realizes a point of reunion: "Everyone came, Nana and my aunts, some of the cousins and Tess's husband, Uncle Eamon" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 112).

Another example of family interaction can be found in the chapter "Looking for Monkeys Up in the Zoo (Je t'aime ... moi non plus)," which is in many ways a microcosm of the cultural blend from the perspective of the child narrator. Subtle cultural differences are implied in the reactions to the choice of records being played at the party, including "One of [his] dad's Nigerian ones," referring to a Chief Ebenezer Obey recording. Michael observes, "Tess raised an eyebrow at Annie who was standing smoking by the sink. Annie listened, took a puff and made a long face" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 115-116). This minor observation shows the narrators ability to discern reactions of approval or disparagement. The author's control of the narrative voice is evident, since there is no explanation of the musical artist's background, Chief Ebenezer Obey being a Yoruba juju musician who started off in the 1950s in Lagos and developed his own band in 1964 known as the International Brothers. Another of the reactions comes from Maggie, who examines the album cover and remarks, '"Funny music, in't it?'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 116). For the narrator, the moment to dance is precipitated by the urging of his mother and father, even though his brother Connor says, '"He can't dance.'" Connor's negation suggests that the mode of cultural transmission can be accomplished through the agency of the father: "My dad came over and picked me up. I hung on to his neck and buried my face in his shoulder while he swayed" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 117).

This social gathering involving communal dancing and the combining of seemingly divergent musical tastes is energized, when Uncle Gerry and Michael's father join in an impromptu dance: "He [Dad] was stomping round, linking arms with Gerry so the two of them were turning in the room like giants smashing everything in the way" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 118). This moment of what appears to be chaos is performed to The Dubliners recording "Come and Join the British Army" "and it went straight into singing about monkeys up in the zoo" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 118). The Dubliners, an Irish group specializing in folk music and popular during the 1960s, contrasts with Chief Obeys style, and the "crashing" might suggest the unsettling of social distinctions. Later, dancing is also used to unite the father and Nana (his mother-in-law), when Michael observes "my dad danced with Nana round the room" and later Nana "reach [es] up and gave my dad a kiss on the cheek" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 120).

From the perspective of childhood, the narrator also describes the reunion with his mother. Here the innocence of childhood is reflected in sensations and observations of the mother's skin: "her face and skin was warm, it was like Carmel's, like milk," suggesting skin color, and the mother's presence also connotes security and the family bond: '"Look at my wedding ring,' ... I'll never take that off. He'll have to pull the house down on top and bury me in it.'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 119).

Another aspect of the narrator's consciousness is the awareness of other ethnicities in addition to Irish and Yoruba-Nigerian, as when he describes a friend's (Marie's) father, a "West Indian from Guyana," whose physical appearance is presented in close detail: "He was tall and gangly and looked like a gangster in the films with hairy arms and shoulders. ... Even his toes were hairy in his flip-flops" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 129-130). Here as well the idea of community, the shared bathing facility, is presented and the bonds of common mixed-race heritage in that the "West Indian from Guyana" is also married to an Irish woman who is comforted by Michael's mother, when her husband "stormed out and left them" at one moment (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 130). The obverse separation is presented, the husband leaving as opposed to, in the narrator's case, the mother leaving but eventually returning. (Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play, A Raisin in the Son, also presents the communal bathroom but without developing interactions with neighbors.)

The residence contains other individuals with various national or ethnic identities, such as Mr. Ajani and Mr. Babalola, aYoruba (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 133). Michael's childhood perspective captures fragments of other family relationships and is accomplished through indirection. When interacting with Marie, Michael informs us of Marie's mother's marital complaint about her husband's actions: "he'd got in with a bad crowd, an Indian fella and a black fella, they were leading him astray" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 132). For Michael, these marital problems are not interpreted ethnically or racially, although in repeating the ethnic and racial labels, the author directs the reader to such considerations.

Another of the interchanges, with Michael's father and Mr. Lawal, is viewed by Michael through sound and language: "Mr. Lawal's voice was growly, the words exploded out of his chest in English and sounded like they were laughing everything off in Yoruba" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 135). These observations on language also extend to Tunde, the young boy who comes to live with the family and who "couldn't really speak English until we started teaching him" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 135). Outside of the immediate family network, Tunde is perceived as a rival to Michael, who "didn't like the way he kept following [his] mum around" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 136). Tundes presence, however, reveals Nigerian cultural practices such as when "we were all using our hands to have eba and okra with tripe and cow's foot from shared plates" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 136).

Most important, it is within the family circle and that of the immediate community that the complex web of associations is found. Also, the widening circles of place and environment beyond the home are given sharp descriptive treatment in the chapter titled "The Thames," important because the children were told "not to go down by the Thames" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 145).
    The way down was dank and
   slippery, and I was always down
   there where it opened on to a bend
   in the river. The water came in
   and out, and slopped with the tide
   on to the steps, or dropped below
   a shoulder of mud and shingle.
   (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall

In addition to lines echoing Naipaul's work A Bend in the River (1979), the passage suggests a world beyond the boundaries of the immediate family and residence.

Other references that project to the wider world can be found in allusions to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, whose Irish background has significance for Michael's mother (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 155). At one moment, Michael describes the space where pictures of "her Kennedys were up on the wall beside the Nigerian army calendar and underneath was a picture of the sacred heart, its blood on fire" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 155). This technique, using images on walls to suggest overlapping symbolism, is a classic film and drama strategy. The contrasting images are not deconstructed in language but merely observed indirectly by the narrator.

Other community locations are presented, representing both social and political spaces, such as Vauxhall Gardens and especially the market. Unlike the family space, the market, "full of noise in a tunnel under the awnings," is a place for wider observations and from which certain social realties emerge (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 160). When an "old man" remarks to one of the vegetable sellers, '"That's hers,'" referring to Michael, Michael hears the remarks and processes them in a way that suggests resistance to the insult, "'Fuckin' black man's mattress'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 162). Depending on age and attitude, such a remark could spur anger, outrage, or humiliation. From Michael's perspective, the feeling is that of invisibility: "I looked at both their faces, it was me standing there but they were ignoring me ... It was like I was a wooden post. They were treating me like I wasn't real" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 162).

Issues of reality and identity are maximized by Gbadamosi, who presents Michael's anger from the childhood perspective but with the muted rage appropriate to the emotional situation: "I wasn't worried what they thought. Both of them had weaselly faces and I thought of saying to the vegetable man, 'You look like a rat!'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 162). Although the novel does not portray the environment as rat-infested, the urban stereotype, it does show the presence of rats in the later demolition of flats, and Michael's description of the vegetable man as a rat is a kind of foreshadowing of that later depiction, perhaps relatable to Richard Wright's representations in Native Son (1940).

Vauxhall also uses visual reflections through mirrors, suggesting multiple angles of self-perception in relation to broader representations of Michael's physical and social appearance, and potentially interpreted using Lacan's "mirror stage." When Michael and his mother pass the window of Sainsbury's and the mirrors "in the middle of the shop," a certain self-reflection occurs, which though innocent has resonating implications:
    Everyone was going round me
   and not looking ... I looked round
   and could see myself from lots
   of different angles in the glass ...
   I was invisible but I could see
   everyone. And what I saw in
   between the mirrors was a boy
   with brown bushy hair and
   blinding eyes being watched
   by the best mum in the world.
   (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall

Combined with the idea of multiple angles, this moment in the novel joins the various concentric circles in which "mum" is related to the global or "world" vision of Michael's identity. Michael's "bushy hair" is a visual marker of his identity, not rejected by him at this stage, as in Irie's actions as an older character in White Teeth. Furthermore, readers familiar with the African American literary canon might associate Michael's conceptions of invisibility with that of Ellison's narrator in Invisible Man (1954), whose "invisibility" is a result of race relations in the U.S.

Also from the childhood perspective, the novel presents through inference the Biafran Conflict (1967-1970) and the Yoruba practice of scarification, but in a manner that reifies the parental level as that of the secure space. When Michael is watching television and notes that "Tanks were clanking on the telly into Biafra," not only are readers given a historical marker but are simultaneously brought into the adult reality and Michael's perception of it. Here the motif of reflection is used again, when "the telly was reflecting on to his [Michael's father's] glasses" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 234). This moment in the chapter titled "Tribal Marks" reinforces the closeness of the parental bond, when Michael "drew [his] fingers across his scars," and realizes that he "was seeing them properly for the first time" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 235). The father's explanation of scarification, indicating that for the child "'... it doesn't hurt or you don't remember,'" is augmented by Busola, using African animal imagery, "'They're like zebras'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 236). Within this exchange, the novel shows how cultural and historical realities are perceived through the lens of childhood.

Later, Michael's understanding of racial identity is joined to his conceptions of parental security. When he meets Ian Barrett, a school mate and fighting rival, in the playground on Vauxhall Street, their conversation reveals the subtleties of racial identity. The simple question posed by Michael, '"Are you black?'" opens a view of parental closeness, when Ian acknowledges that his father is black but that he doesn't "know" him, that his father '"doesn't come round'" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 286). The absentee father is a conception that Michael cannot process as he states, "I tried to imagine what not knowing your dad was. I couldn't, it was just blank" (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall 286). Michael's understanding of racial identity as a social marker is complicated but, nevertheless, advanced through the conversation with Ian Barrett, whose offer of the cigarette is another signal of a maturing experience. The gradations of comprehension are brought forward in Michael's reaction.
    ... but I couldn't get used to black
   and white like it was television
   when it was my mum and dad, I
   hadn't thought of my mum being
   white. Only being my mum.
   (Gbadamosi, Vauxhall


In Vauxhall, the politics of childhood allows for multiple inclusions and indirect observations that have subtle importance. Childhood perceptions are perceived as adult memories but without the intrusive commentary that might be connected to the adult voice, The novel presents numerous opportunities for reading the social and political vision of childhood, where the racial, cultural, or ethnic identities of the parents, Irish and Yoruba, have alternating influences on the formation of Michael's world, and where a sense of security is often found in the protection provided by his parents. Although in the novel the ultimate destruction of the physical environment implies the waning of childhood viewpoints, the novel projects the possibilities of Michael's mature identity, whether marked by a racial characterization or inherently complex and multiple, undetermined by societal dualities.


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"Writers in Conversation: Chinua Achebe with Nuruddin Farah." Roland Collection, 1984.

Caption: Gabriel Gbadamosi's book, Vauxhall.

Caption: Gabriel Gbadamosi.
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Author:McLaren, Joseph
Publication:Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2018
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