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'My blackness seemed curious, difficult to handle': the day I escaped from the University of Oxford | Education

 The novelist Michael Donkor at a costume party at the University of Oxford "src =" /media/22fd5fd7c209ffd7db1d99216ccb39f454f223fc/0_892_1841_1991/master/1841.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=3efe34cf5ea5f856ccb94631ef186bbb "/> </source> </source> </source> </source> </picture></div><p> <span

'I wore silly costumes to fancy dress parties.' Photograph: courtesy of Michael Donkor

Not only did I learn about Tennyson and Woolf, I also learned how to articulate my emotions and anxieties, and when I opened, I discovered that, under the brilliant appearance of confrontation, those who would become in some of my closest friends they had their own problems: deep nostalgia, experiencing misogyny, classism, regionalism, the difficulty of starting a relationship in a strange new world, sharing these stories was restorative, speaking through some of the absurdity that was presented to me. , the fragile public school kid who was offended when I had the gall to say he was "not sure" about the work of a poet he liked, or the girl I heard describing me for someone like "erm, ya you know, the, uh, someone who … uh … wears the handkerchiefs ", instead of calling me black, it was liberating.

When my parents arrived at my graduation, We started the day by taking a quick turn around the university grounds. I drove them through the entrance years ago. I pointed to the window of my first-year room; now the insipid posters of another person surrounded the large mirror on the back wall.

I remembered how, in my first spring quarter, I had stopped in that room and had looked in the mirror while preparing to go out with a girl. Two friends knocked on my door. Maybe they had the suspicion that dating a girl might not be, in the long run, what she was looking for. But because they understood that I was trying to find out what I really wanted, and because it did not matter if I was interested in boys or girls, or both or neither, and because they wanted to see me happy, they joined, full of enthusiastic questions. and rigorous criticism of my attire. We beat Beyoncé and we danced around the room.

The date was a total failure: she brought her friend with her, which she did not expect; the bar was too noisy to hear someone speak. After releasing me, I headed home for the cobblestones, overcome by shame.

But I tried as hard as I could to think otherwise: I reasoned that, when I returned to college, I would tell my friends what had happened. They would demand that you not skimp on the details. There would be red wine to facilitate storytelling. It would cost them the ridiculousness of everything. And they would get consoling and intelligent wisdom, observations that I could never have achieved on my own.

Michael Donkor's debut novel, Hold, is published on July 12 by Fourth Estate at £ 12.99. To order a copy for £ 9.99, go to or call 0330 333 6846.

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