Review: Diary of A Lost Girl

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(Kola Boof).

For some reason, it often takes an expatriate to make a seminal contribution to a culture.

Such is the case with Kola Boof, whose heartbreaking and brutally-honest autobiography, Diary of a Lost Girl, might be the most brilliant deconstruction of the plight of present-day African-Americans yet written. The title of this alternately thought-provoking and moving memoir was ostensibly inspired by Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, the literary classic which chronicled the last days of a Dutch teenager trying to maintain her sanity, humanity and a sense of optimism while making sense of the Holocaust as Nazism enveloped Europe.

Well, Ms. Boof, whose real name is Naima Bint Harith, has written an equally-evocative account of her own harrowing tale of survival. Born in The Sudan in March of 1972, she was orphaned at the age of seven after her parents were murdered for speaking out against the government’s involvement in the revival of the slave trade. After being abandoned by her grandmother for being too dark before finding temporary political asylum in Great Britain, she arrived in the United States a year later a “trembling, frightened wreck.� She was adopted by a kindly African-American couple with a big family which lived in a nice house in a residential section of Washington, DC.

Sadly, the host of woes of Biblical proportions being visited upon the unfortunate little immigrant just continued. Tested more than Job, besides hearing her mother and father die, Kola suffered circumcision, a heart attack, betrayal by a bisexual boyfriend, molestation, statutory rape, discrimination, ostracism and accusations of being a witch, all before getting out of her teens.

It is important to note English is not her native language, so she had the additional burden of learning to communicate in a new tongue. But of all the challenges she would face in America, it appears that none would prove to be as difficult as dealing with the self-hatred and second-class status she found among blacks.

Speaking frankly about such taboo subjects as the color-coded caste system among African-Americans, she bemoans how brothers “judge the worth of black women by (a) how light-skinned they are, (b) how Euro-slender they are, and (c) the texture of their hair.� But she doesn’t let sisters off easy either, indicting them for trying to adapt to a European standard of beauty and thereby “becoming walking billboards for the general society’s message that whiteness is superior.�
Kola Boof is never one to mince words; thus, her iconoclastic ideas aren’t for everyone. “You should not come into this book expecting to like Kola Boof,� she warns. “My purpose as a literary artist is not to be liked, but to be understood—regardless of whether I’m right or wrong… I spent my whole life being dictated to by American media and nigger media about what to believe and think—and so now it’s my turn, as an African woman and womb-bearer, to do the dictating.  If you don’t appreciate my candor—then write your own goddamned book; this one is mines.�

Reserving perhaps her harshest words for Islam, which she repeatedly criticizes as anti-female, the Kola claims to be in hiding due to death threats. If true, this development is no surprise, given the serious accusations leveled on these pages, and the fatwas issued by Muslim fundamentalists in reaction to such relatively-mild detractors as Salman Rushdie.

When not excoriating Islam, with a refreshingly unguarded honesty Boof recalls her assorted sexual and romantic liaisons ranging from Osama bin Laden, at one extreme, to a married Jewish businessman, at the other, with a rainbow coalition of lovers betwixt and between, with a stated preference for black men. In sum, Diary of a Lost Girl is an admirable addition to the genre of African-American autobiography. For warts and all, it represents the unalloyed emotions of an intelligent, defiant, controversial, frequently profane and proud black woman, a survivor who somehow overcame one of the worst childhoods imaginable to share an abundance of intriguing, if debatable insights about her adopted homeland.

Postscript: While the Internet is abuzz with rumors and speculation surrounding Kola Boof, for purposes of this review this critic simply assessed Diary of a Lost Girl on its own merits, without entertaining extraneous issues raised elsewhere.

“The Hip Hop Holocaust would signal the birth of a new ideology amongst
American blacks, a new cultural ethic that would eventually migrate to blacks all over the world—a cultural ethic that now openly embraced and promoted materialism, misogyny, disloyalty and anarchy. Whereas the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements had unified black people worldwide and brought about independence and nation-building in Africa, and a huge renaissance in self-love, unity and empowerment… -- the Hip Hop Holocaust destroyed all that.

This was the music that eventually renamed the mothers of the men who performed it—‘bitches’ and ‘hos’ – and made it fashionable to be colorist (against black women) and self-centered (bling-bling). I call it a ‘holocaust’ because it effectively killed the core community in Black America and completely bamboozled the black youth and separated them from their true worth… no one was willing to stand up to the Hip Hop anarchists. I was there, a new American and a black child in 1980… What others praise as a revolutionary new expression of the ‘black man’s’ experience in America… I regard, in retrospect, as a poison against the people.�—Excerpted from Chapter Six, “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of.�

Diary of a Lost Girl: The Autobiography of Kola Boof. By Kola Boof (a.k.a Naima Bint Harith). Doors of Kush. Hardcover, $25.00. 441 pages, illustrated. ISBN: 0-9712019-8-6

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