Hello everyone, I’m Ifeanyi, the main character in the soon-to-be-published picture book that’s been mentioned, here, a few times. I’m being sneaky and surely, my authorly mother – that’s Katia, the owner of this blog – will not be happy when she finds this post. She will go all stern and reasonable on me and lecture me about everyone at the publishing house doing their very best to make sure the book reaches the widest audience possible and doesn’t turn anyone off for some silly reason. And maybe she’s right. Still, my feeling is that the situation is serious enough to warrant a coup d’eclat.
What situation? Well, I hear that they are changing my name. Can you believe it ? I know that I’m a fictional character, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. The general opinion seems to be that my given name, the name that my authorly mother chose for me, is too difficult to pronounce and therefore unacceptable. What is so difficult about Ifeanyi, I ask? Ee-feh-ahh-nyi. See? Easy. Well, some people think it is impossible.
Imagine. Mother, who’s supposed to be on holidays, and instead, has been busily painting walls and ceilings, got an email from the publishing house telling her that the decision had been made to change my name. She was given two options ; both options unacceptable in her opinion, and mine. She spent the day angry and upset, and was still feeling that way when she went to bed, and of course, she couldn’t sleep. So she got up and spent the night trying to find me a new name that she liked, a new name which would be deemed acceptable… hear easy to pronounce. Jack, Jill, Tom, Jo, Dan, Bob, Bill, Tim… That kind. She found a new one. It seems that I now go by the name of Amadi.
Amadi means “free born” in my native language. I wonder if she’s making some kind of a statement, here. As far as given names go, I’d say Amadi is just fine. And definitely Igbo. It does sound like home and when I say it, I can almost hear my ancestors’ voices travelling on the wings of the Harmattan as it blows its dusty way from the desert. Still, it’s going to take some getting used to. It’s been a few years since I came out of my authorly mother’s mind. I’m used to my given name. I LIKE it. It’s a beautiful name ! It means : with God, nothing is impossible.
Mother – the authorly one, because I now have another mother, an artist busy painting me – has been telling herself that it was maybe an omen that she chose it for me in the first place : it will now help us prove that indeed, nothing is impossible, even getting used to a different name. Amadi is OK, really. She does come up with nice names.
I’m going to do just like her and repeat, again and again : I have two beautiful names. The first one is a name that only a handful of people know and use, people like my authorly mother, her close friends, and myself: Ifeanyi. And the second one is the name that will be used by all, the name that will come out in print in a book that will tell my very own story: Amadi. And later, when people know and like me as Amadi, maybe I can tell them that I have another name, my first given name, Ifeanyi, and maybe they’ll like it and not think it’s so impossible. Because nowhere in the world should there be such a thing as an impossible name. On the contrary. People all over should be curious and open to hearing new sounds, to learning new words and names. Nowhere should anyone be afraid to leave their comfort zone and try new things, to let their tongue taste new sounds, see how they roll off of it. Nowhere should anyone worry about sounding funny, about struggling with different combinations of letters and syllables.
My authorly mother is also using another trick to help her deal with this name issue. In her husband’s country, Haiti, newborns are often given several names in order to honor family members. In the end, the name that everyone uses is often the very last one, and not at all the first one. And so it will be for me. Only, the giving of my second name kind of got delayed.
Signed : Ifeanyi Amadi