Review: My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay

In 1967, a young Ethiopian woman who was studying in England gave birth to a baby. Not long after, she returned to her native country alone.  Lemn Sissay – renamed Norman by his assigned social worker – was placed with a white, Baptist couple in Ashton-in-Makerfield. His birth mother would not sign any adoption papers. My Name is Why (2019) charts Sissay’s passage through the care system in Wigan via a combination of his own recollections and reports from the Authority, only recently made available to him after a 34-year campaign. It is a harrowing insight into the early life of a man many will know through his poetry or other writing.  The Greenwoods welcomed Sissay into their strict Christian household, with its love of C.S. Lewis , hymns, and prayer. Outside the family home stood a laburnum tree, “with its beauteous blooms and poisonous seeds” – a motif that comes to represent Sissay’s experience at Osborne Road. The Greenwood family swells in the years following Sissay’s arrival,