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Borrowed Body by Valerie Mason-John

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200 pages

“I could have been born and raised in Africa. But my Spirit was in too much of a rush to be reincarnated…At six weeks I was chucked out into the new year of 1965 which wasn’t prepared to welcome on African baby, abandoned on a harsh English winter’s day.” So begins Pauline’s spirited and moving story of her childhood and teenage years in and out of foster homes and back and forth to Dr. Barnardo’s Village in Essex. Her Barnardo’s family was ruled by an unlikely trio—Aunty Claire, a fervent Christian; her laconic husband, the German Jewish Uncle Boris; and Aunty Morag, the cook. And, of course, other kids orphaned or abandoned like Pauline. Woven into this account are Pauline’s angel and spirit companions—Sparky, Annabel and Snake— who by turns help and hinder her to survive in the “real world.” The Barnardo’s good times are shattered by the sudden visits of her mother, whom she calls Wunmi and with whom she goes to live in a London high-rise. Wunmi’s method of refashioning Pauline into a dutiful African child is literally to knock the English out of her. Pauline tries other ways to survive—sniffing glue and shoplifting—until the harsh realities of detention centres and juvenile courts make Pauline think again…


“Borrowed Body, is a coming-of-age narrative in which author, Valerie Mason-John introduces us to Pauline, a brilliant and sensitive Black girl, suffering figuratively and literally from mother loss. In order to survive, Pauline must use all her wit, fortitude, and intelligence to envision and create a world where to be Black and female was to be someone of worth, beauty, and significance...A memorable and poignant story.”
—Afua Cooper, Ph.D., author of The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada, and The Burning of Old Montreal

“Mason-John is an ingenious story teller who allows us into the surprising, raw, gritty, and ruptured world of a young black girl who must come to terms with skin colour/race/self in her unnatural world. ”
—Lillian Allen, founder of Dub Poetry in Canada

PUBLISHER: Demeter Press (November 18, 2013)

FORMAT: Paperback