I have mixed feelings about My Name is Konisola by Alisa Siegel.
The story is beautiful, and the fact that it is based on a true one makes Konisola’s happy ending absolutely perfect.
My problem isn’t with the story, the writing or any of the people (well, one person – you know who you are), it’s with the policies, I suppose, of the Canadian government. To me it’s rather frightening that you can get into Canada so easily and that you can get free healthcare immediately. I know that sounds harsh: Canadians are know for their free healthcare and so why shouldn’t a refugee fleeing from violence that almost cost her life get it, too? And when you read Konisola story and that of her mother, it sounds cold, and I appreciate that.
However, healthcare isn’t actually free. Canadians pay for the healthcare system to be there when any Canadian needs it. And healthcare for Canadians is costing more every year both in taxes (which I gladly pay) and the cost of services you now have to pay out of pocket. Again, I am glad to do it so that when a Canadian in the Yukon is sick, she doesn’t have to worry about whether she eats this week or sees a doctor.
But I have a huge problem with someone crossing into Canada knowing they are sick, yet coming because she knows Canada has free healthcare and she will be taken care of. It can’t work this way, but it obviously does, and it annoys me.
Which brings me back to My Name is Konisola.
If you take those two parts away from the story – because ultimately it obviously does happen – and just focus on the story of nine-year-old Konisola and her mother who flee their home in Nigeria to escape violence to come to Canada in search of refuge, then the story is a beautiful one about love, and doing anything for it, and finding family.
When we meet Konisola, she is playing with her friends at school in Nigeria. Her mom appears unexpectedly in the schoolyard and tells her daughter they have to go, now. The pair secretly get on airplane to Canada where they will be safe.
At the airport, the pair meet a woman who offers them shelter until their refuge claim can be heard. As a side, Konisola and her mom arrive in Toronto in the midst of winter with literally just the clothes on their backs. They are both in sandals. I couldn’t even image how cold they would have been, although Siegel does a great job in describing it.
But then Konisola’s mom falls ill and the pair, who only have each other, are separated. Konisola eventually goes to another woman’s house (see above), where she is not allowed outside and is alone most of the day and into the night. She stays in that apartment throughout the winter and into spring (great description of the passage of time), until “she meets a remarkable Canadian nurse and things begin to change for the better. But Konisola’s future remains uncertain. Will this new life she has found been taken from her.”
Removing the two parts from the story I didn’t like, the rest of the story is beautiful including Konisola finding a home, going to school and making a best friend, her fear of cats (cats in Nigeria are outdoors and apparently they bite) to her overcoming that to find a new best four-legged friend and being re-united with her mom in the hospital. (I couldn’t imagine being in a strange-in-every-way country and then being separated from the only constant in your life for so long. Konisola must have been terrified.) I also love how Konisola becomes a part of this amazing family.
My condolences to Konisola on the loss of her brave, amazing mom who left behind everything she loved to ensure her daughter was safe and loved. I also wish Konisola and her family a lifetime of continued happiness.
My Name is Konisola is from Second Story Press and retails for $10.95.
A copy of this book was provided by Second Story Press
for an honest review. The opinions are my own.