‘My Life as a Chameleon’ by Diana Anyakwo

Teens and lovers of YA are absolutely spoilt for choice these days.

There are so many great books that tackle important issues with candour, honesty and heart, and Diana Anyakwo’s debut novel ‘My Life as a Chameleon‘ is one such book.

Our protagonist Lily is 16 and living in Manchester. It’s been 5 years since her father died and she is about to return to Nigeria to reunite with her mother and older siblings. It’s from this point that she looks back on her experiences growing up.

The book has dual timelines, which we switch between throughout the novel, one 1990’s Manchester, and another set mostly in Lagos in the 1980s. As Lily looks back on her childhood she gains a greater understanding of the secrets, relationships and experiences she couldn’t quite grasp as a young child.

As the baby of the family, by several years, when Lily is 8 her other siblings are at university and boarding school. So, at her home in Lagos it’s just Lily, her Irish mother, and her Nigerian father. During this time, her father struggles with an illness that keeps him bed bound that she doesn’t quite understand. Some days Lily needs to tiptoe around him so she doesn’t set him off.

Diana Anyakwo – Author

As a mixed-race girl Lily doesn’t quite seem to fit in at school either. At both home and school where tension bubbles just under the surface, to feel safe and like she belongs she learns to live like a chameleon, adapting herself blend in where she can. A lot of us adult and teen can relate to code-switching in this way, and that feeling of not fitting in; trying on lots of different identities until we gain a better understanding of ourselves and place in the world.

Much of My Life as a Chameleon is based on Anyakwo’s experiences and memories of growing up mixed race in Nigeria, and this brings so much heart, tenderness and understanding to her novel. This coming-of-age story explores themes of race, class, and social acceptance, as well as the phenomenon of Nigerwives – white women married to Nigerian men who weren’t given the same privileges as the expatriates working in Nigeria in the 70s and 80s.

My Life as a Chameleon is an engaging read, although the transitions between timelines and locations felt a bit unnecessary. But the story is told with an authenticity that shines through, albeit with a bittersweetness to it.

This is a powerful, introspective book, that’s engaging and will pull on your heart strings. It’s a book for anyone who’s felt lonely, misunderstood or out of place, who’s had to switch who they are to blend in or disappear.

My Life As A Chameleon is available to purchase here.


This is a powerful, introspective and engaging book that will pull on your heart strings. It's for anyone who's felt lonely, misunderstood or out of place.

OUT OF 100

65 %
70 %
For the Culture
90 %

Latest articles

Related articles