Looking Back on Little Bee

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In a global city such as London, one might expect to find a variety of people from many distinct cultures and backgrounds. The extent to which this is true, however, can only be realized when immersed in the sights and sounds of multiculturalism for the first time. This is something I personally hope to encounter in December, but experienced from the perspective of a young Nigerian girl in Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, this awareness is magnified and even takes on a life of its own. Culture is a huge aspect of this novel, and the issues that accompany it, along with other themes, create a world revolving not only around immigration and cross-cultural differences, but love and the length to which one family will go to save a girl who was once just another victim of an African oil war.

Little Bee takes the reader on a journey across the world, through the perspective of its title character as well as a British woman, Sarah, now entangled in the life of an orphan from Nigeria. The differences between these two women’s native countries are stark, in regards to everything from race and government to language and communication. These cultural issues are intertwined with Sarah’s regrets and misgivings associated with her husband’s suicide and her affair, her occasionally misplaced love for Charlie (more commonly known as “Batman”), and the complicated and awfully managed British immigration system, fought against until the bitter end by a journalist, a superhero, and a Little Bee.

Coming from a place where jungles and soldiers are more common than suburbs or magazines, Little Bee is subject to culture shock, to say the least, when she arrives in London. But the Black Hill Immigration Removal Centre is far from representative of the world surrounding its high walls, a fact Little Bee discovers only after two long years of captivity. The treatment of the women here does not at all reflect well on the British government, especially the immigration department,...
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