My Name is Tani is the hopeful true story of a young boy who finds a place and a passion in America.
My Name Is Tani . . . and I Believe in Miracles by Tanitoluwa Adewumi with Craig Borlase (Young Reader Edition). Thomas Nelson, 2020, 195 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, 8-10
Recommended for: ages 8-14
“Miracles are all around us. All you have to do is look.” Tani Adewumi enjoyed a comfortable life in Abuja, Nigeria up until around the age of five. Then the trouble began. His father owned a print shop and his mother worked at a bank, so they were able to afford a nice home with all the conveniences. Big brother Austin didn’t mind having little brother tag along on big-kid outings, and the family faithfully attended church and prayed together.
The trouble started when Boko Haram ordered a print job from Mr. Adewumi that the latter refused: a poster denouncing Christians. The radical Muslim group, which was (and is) responsible for thousands of kidnappings and murders of Christians, harassed the family from Abuja to the smaller city of Akure, but Boko Haram found them again. More than once men surrounded the house and threatened to break in, but prayer stopped them every time. The threats were a warning, however: for their own safety, the family sought asylum in America.
The transition wasn’t especially smooth. Their first refuge was in Dallas with a grandmother and uncle in a crowded apartment. Family tensions escalated until Tani’s parents relocated in New York City, where a local church helped them move into a former hotel, now homeless shelter. Dad found a job washing dishes and Mom began training as a nurse’s aide. The boys, of course, had to go to school, and Tani was still anxiously feeling his way at P.S. 116 when he decided to try the chess club.
One year later, at the age of eight, he won the state boy’s chess championship.
Tami tells his own story in a casual style that’s easy to read and relate to. He shares what he found strange in America (“Cheese. I just don’t get it”), showers gratitude on his two chess coaches at P.S. 116, and credits Jesus for miraculously shepherding the family to the U.S. and providing for all their needs. (His gratitude for America is heartening also.) As this is a Young Reader edition, details about refugee resettlement and red tape are missing, along with a certain amount of dramatic tension. It’s all through the perspective of a nine-year-old whose personality pops through the page. Readers will enjoy watching him go from strength to strength in the game, and some may be inspired to take up chess themselves.
Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 5
- Artistic/literary value: 3.75
Also at Redeemed Reader:
- Tani is inspired by the story of Malala Yousafzai during his first year at P.S. 116; see our review of her autobiography, I Am Malala.
- If your teen enjoys chess, check out our review of the YA Novel, Grandmaster and The Queen of Katwe: Book and Movie.
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