Coming 2 America: This is a Story About a Fifteen-Year-Old African Girl
by Dr. John Ayoola Akinyemi
The Reading Glass Books

"We were inseparable in the sense that I couldn’t have written her story without touching my story. We loved each other."

In the later years of her life, Agnes Ndungwa Akinyemi assembled much of her family and recounted her life story to them, sharing the surprising details and points of interest of where she, and by association, they had all come from. After her passing, her husband recollected that story here in this book, detailing the journey of a fifteen-year-old girl from a small village in Kangundo, Kenya, entering the United States on her own without family or an established support system to continue her education. Her journey would open doors that could only be unlocked by taking such a bold step. It was not by accident that this opportunity came up but through her hard work, as she was chosen for this new American program by the Kenyan government based on her performance in school up to this point.

Working to support herself while studying was simply part of the assignment to her, and it wasn’t long before she had succeeded enough to begin studying at Aurora College. While there, she happened to meet another student from Africa, a Nigerian man who would one day become her husband. Agnes’ work and example not only created opportunities for herself but also allowed other members of her family to make the long trip to America and follow in her footsteps, beginning a legacy that endures through her family today. Working for the United States Army as a microbiologist and starting her own family in America, the details of Agnes’ life unfold with friendship, gratitude, and joy.

By the author’s admission, the first challenge of a book like this about someone with whom he has spent most of his life is selecting what moments are recorded and which ones are left on the cutting room floor. The resulting work is one that captures his late wife’s character and personality, documenting her struggles and triumphs without being overly revealing, personal, or overwhelming to the reader with places and dates of small details. Just as the narrative was curated, so too is the collection of photos from over the years that is included in the book, documenting and illustrating important family and work events, joyous moments, and personal connections that will last forever. Each photo shows the closeness and care that the family Agnes helped to build shares with one another.

This is a story that has the potential to inspire others not to be intimidated by opportunity, no matter how radical it may seem. The author’s love for his wife is apparent in the humor of the stories he shares, the small details that have become unforgettable, and the memories that burn brightly within him and on the page. While family details and names reflect the value that this story has on those who knew Agnes, the lessons and inspiration that can be gleaned from reading about her life have a much more universal appeal. Her hard work, dedication, and love for the people around her are just some of the elements that made Agnes who she was, and this autobiographical snapshot helps to highlight the importance of those strong characteristics.

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