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My Name is Tani

My Name is Tani

One of the best things about being a Cadet counselor and parent is sharing what I love with kids. Chess is one example. 

The game can be learned at an early age. My dad taught me when I was about 5 years old. It was fun. I taught my youngest son how to play with some basic strategies. It wasn't very long before he could beat me and eventually he earned a merit badge in Cadets.

My Name is Tani is the story of how one boy learned how to master the game of chess under difficult circumstances. 

Tani came to the U.S. from Nigeria with his parents and older brother. Boko Haram was threatening them because of their Christian faith so they fled. The memoir narrative is told by Tani and his mom and dad. Each of them brings their own perspective to their intense and stressful journey. They moved to Dallas, but family members who initially welcomed them quickly retracted the welcome mat. They moved to New York City with the help of a pastor, and Tani started playing chess in an after-school program. Gradually, he started winning tournaments, and the media picked up on his story. Shortly afterward, he was offered a book deal. There is a movie in the works that will be produced by Trevor Noah, and Tani has several videos on YouTube. 

One of the things I noticed was the high value the family places on education. Every time they moved, enrolling the boys in school was one of their first priorities. Also, their mom would take the boys to the New York Public Library on a regular basis. 

I would recommend the book for middle school libraries or for anyone who champions the underdog. I have been mentoring at-risk boys for about 10 years, and this book is also appropriate for those who are in mentoring relationships. 

I have a bookmark with an African Proverb that reads "To get lost is to find the way." I don't know if young Tani ever got lost, but metaphorically speaking, he certainly found the way. The underlying theme of the story is hope. Kindness and the importance of family are two additional themes. My copy is on my shelf next to The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba; they are perfect book companions. (Thomas Nelson)


    Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

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