Okporo, Edafe. “Bed 26: A Memoir of an African Man’s Asylum in the United States”, Xlibris, 2019.
A Powerful Memoir Debut
“My life, as you will read, has taken me from one place to another. “Bed Number 26” is the story of how I fought my way out of constant persecution and reclaimed my freedom. It is my hope that by sharing my experience and my pain, you will begin to understand why people are forced to immigrate.” Those are the words of a Nigerian letting us see what people like him are forced to go through. This book is a revealing memoir and empowering manifesto, with contributions from other asylees, refugees, and Nigerians.
Based on a true life story, “Bed 26” narrates the experiences of Nigerian and West African gay, bisexual men and the reason they are forced to flee from their home country. It is alos about the experiences of immigrants in an immigration detention, and the gap between the perceived American dream and the reality of racism, discrimination and phobia for people of color in America.
Okporo stresses why people should not be categorized based on accepted norms “that are created to suit people who created them.” He encourages to looking beyond labels and stereotypes such as “refugees” and “citizens” and looking inward into human character and behavior. We have been aware of the stigma in today’s society but now it has become overbearing. We must learn to accept people the way they are and love them just the same.
We are to be more compassionate and caring for people around us, our loved ones and people who are close to them. We should not judge people without knowing how far they have come and this is why Okporo reminds about forgiveness for people who have wronged us in the past, and resilience for young and old people to challenge the norm.”
This is Okporo’s first book and he is far from being a polished writer but I must commend him for taking the stand that he does and putting himself available for public to criticize or agree with. The story jumps but it is powerful. He relates truths that most Americans need to understand about how critical it is for our country to continue to represent a land of welcome and refuge from countries filled with traditionalism and violence.
Reading about growing up in Nigeria as a gay man is very difficult to do with dry eyes. We read of injustices on both sides of the Atlantic and we see our author move “from trust to distrust and from shame to autonomy while making sure he knows his own identity.
The story is captivating and gut wrenching. We are helped to frame our own challenges with a worldwide perspective and to see the anguish experienced by members of the LGBTQ community in countries where there are laws that foster, facilitate and even promote oppression and violence against sexual minorities. In many cases they face physical violence just because of who they are. Okporo shares with us his struggles and the struggles of LGBTQ Nigerians and he gives us a message of hope and redemption as he advocates for others who have similar experiences. Okporo, continues to fight for the LGTBQ community around the world.