My Name Is Why

Lemn Sissay

My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay (Hardback ISBN 9781786892348) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook, Downloadable audio

29 August 2019

A memoir with a message – about growing up in care and finding hope, determination and creativity – from British poet and national treasure Lemn Sissay

At the age of seventeen, after a childhood in a foster family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth.This is Lemn’s story; a story of neglect and determination, misfortune and hope, cruelty and triumph.Sissay reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. Written with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation’s best-loved poets, this moving, frank and timely memoir is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.


“Fans of his writing will have been waiting for this memoir. He has an extraordinary story to tell”
sunday Times

See more reviews

“Utterly extraordinary”
Misha Glenny

”PRAISE FOR LEMN SISSAY: One of the most original, challenging poets writing in Britain today, and his extraordinary, heart-breaking, courageous life story is the stuff of legend”
daily Mail

“Highly personal themes reach out far beyond his individual experiences to highlight the universal nature of rejection, loss, dislocation and healing”
Kirsty Young, Bbc Radio 4 Desert Island Discs

“Lemn Sissay is a passionate and powerful voice whose performances are humbling and exhilarating”
Kate Tempest


Lemn Sissay

Lemn Sissay is an award-winning poet, writer and popular broadcaster. He is the author of seven poetry collections including, most recently, Gold from the Stone, as well as a number of plays. He was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Huddersfield and the University of Manchester, and was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2010. He was the official poet for the London 2012 Olympics and his Landmark poems can be found in London, Manchester, Huddersfield and Addis Ababa. Sissay is patron of the Letterbox Club, supporting children in care and in 2018 his documentary Superkids was nominated for a BAFTA award. In 2019, he was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize. He is currently Chancellor of the University of Manchester. He is British and Ethiopian.

@lemnsissay | lemnsissay.com