LoveReading Expert Review of My Name is Tani

This charming against-the-odds page-turner tell the true tale of an eight-year-old’s journey from fleeing Boko Haram to becoming a US State Chess Champion.

Tani Adewumi’s life-affirming memoir is a “dare to dream” story with the power to make souls sing. As he and his parents relate their extraordinary experiences from living under Boko Haram in Nigeria to forging a new life in America, eight-year-old Tani’s voice is unfailingly endearing, with his parents’ narratives providing enlightening context, underpinned by their Christian faith. The tone is set in the introduction, in which Tani tells us that while he’s not sure what he’ll do when he grows up (maybe become a chess grandmaster, maybe a pilot, or maybe both), “I do know this much. I believe in miracles.”

The story begins when Tani’s printer father is visited by Boko Haram and he evades their order to print posters that declare “No to Western Education” and “Kill all Christians”. When this makes the family a target, they flee to another area of Nigeria, then to Dallas after it becomes clear they’re not safe in their homeland. But their first experiences in America are from the life they’d hoped for. They stay with Tani’s great uncle, whose American wife becomes hostile, which compels them to move again. Thanks to the kindness of an old Nigerian friend, they’re able to move to New York where a pastor finds them a place in a shelter. Here Tani is given the opportunity to join a chess club, where meeting Coach Shawn proves to be life-changing. Tani’s natural talent for chess coupled with hard work, family support, and the kindness of coaches who give him a scholarship, sees him make fast progress. Within months he’s crowned State Chess Champion. But it doesn’t end there – when Coach Shawn suggests the family tell the national press their story to help them secure a place to live, the coverage leads to even bigger things.

Alongside the overarching story, Tani’s mother shares fascinating detail about her Yoruba heritage, and this memoir is also poignant in showing the hard realities of migrant life. This comes recommended for readers who love discovering human stories that don’t shirk from the truth, but still radiate a feel-good message of hope.

Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Joanne Owen

My Name is Tani Synopsis

My Name is Tani: The Amazing True Story of One Boy's Journey from Refugee to Chess Champion

The story that is inspiring everyone! Soon to be a Paramount motion picture.

Draw deep into the dramatic account of escape from terrorism.

Tani Adewumi's story begins amid Boko Haram's reign of terror in Nigeria, but this doesn't stop him from pursuing a most unlikely dream. At the age of eight, when Tani and his family's lives are threatened, they are forced to flee for their lives and seek asylum. The odds were against Tani for ever finding a prosperous life in a foreign city, once enjoyed in his native Nigeria. But sometimes the unexpected is found in the most unlikely circumstances.

As Tani's family becomes a target for capture and killings, their miraculous escape takes them across an ocean to New York City. Tani's father, who comes from a royal family and has left behind thirteen employees in Nigeria, becomes a dishwasher and an Uber driver to support his family. Tani's mother, whose family helps to oversee the finances for a large Nigerian printing press, worked at a bank for more than eight years but is now training to become a home health aide.

After eighteen months, the family is still at a shelter, unbeknownst to Tani's classmates. One day Tani asks his parents if he can join the chess program. It seems unlikely since a fee is required. His mother writes to the coach, who offers Tani a scholarship. Tani jumps in to learn the game. The result is not only an unexpected twist of events in a chess competition but also the rescue of an entire family.

In My Name is Tani, we witness the crossfire between miracle and mayhem. A young boy with only a dream in his heart recounts his harrowing escape from Boko Haram's grips and changes his destiny in the process when he finds purpose in the most unlikely of places - a chess championship.

In step with The Girl from Aleppo, and in the spirit of I am Malala, Tani's story sheds light on living through terror. This story of community and hope recounts the lengths parents will go through to find safety for their family. It's a story of what happens one you dare to dream.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780310112457
Publication date: 17th September 2020
Author: Tanitoluwa Adewumi, Craig Borlase
Publisher: Harper Inspire an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Inc
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 352 pages
Collections: 80+ Must-read Novels by Black Writers - Black Lit Matters,
Primary Genre Biographies & Autobiographies
Other Genres:
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Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780310112457
Publication date: 17/09/2020
Format: Paperback

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About Tanitoluwa Adewumi, Craig Borlase

Tani Adewumi is the eight-year-old Nigerian-born boy who recently won the NY State Chess Championship after playing the game for only a year. Tani and his family's story begins amidst Boko Haram's reign of terror in their native country of Nigeria and takes them to a New York City homeless shelter, where they waited to be granted religious asylum. Tani's father, who came from a royal Nigerian family, became a dishwasher and Uber driver to support his family. His mother, whose family owned the largest printing press in Nigeria and had been working at a bank for over a decade, ...

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