In Just Arrived: A Different World, author Bona Udeze illustrates the immigrant experience through the eyes of a young Nigerian who travels to the U.S. to pursue a higher education and become a citizen.
Emeka has dreamt about travelling to America for most of his youth, and when the day comes, he embarks with a sense of excitement and purpose. He immediately encounters the rigors of travel: negotiating the airport boarding process, then finding himself shuffled between immigration officials upon debarkation, getting lost in Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
When his cousin picks him up, the car ride turns ominous when the young men are profiled, since they resemble black men who committed a recent crime. Emeka soon learns this is common practice.
Life in Chicago brings other eye-opening experiences, including the high cost of living: the shock of withholding taxes in paychecks, for example, or realizing the price of bedding items is $99 higher than expected. A chance encounter at a laundromat with Nicole, a lovely young lady, makes her the closest friend Emeka will have, and the eventual love of his life.
Emeka is an appealing protagonist that readers will easily root for. Immediately recognizing him as a fish out of water, readers will identify with his wide-eyed innocence. The author also weaves in social commentary of modern America and Nigeria. Emeka witnesses the lives of young black men, who are often targets of suspicion in America. Recalling his life in Nigeria, he reveals the haunting tale of a woman, who, while fleeing her home with others, was forced to drown her crying baby to avoid the group being discovered by trackers.
At times, however, the author is overly detailed, as in his unnecessarily long description of Emeka’s trek through O’Hare airport or his wordy elaborations on Emeka’s former village life, which can impede the story’s flow.
Nonetheless, those willing to overlook the narrative’s occasional verbosity will find this novel a commendable read.
Also available in hardcover and ebook