I remember standing at the foot of the long stairway in our new house, too frightened to climb, everything big and unfamiliar, until my sister Uche silently took my hand and we went up together. I was 4; she was 15. It is my earliest memory of my attachment to her. But, according to family lore, the attachment started much earlier. I was a fussy baby whose nightly screaming was soothed only by her. Newly weaned, I would eat okra and liver sauce only if she fed me. “By the way,” she told me recently. “I ate all the liver—that’s why you didn’t grow tall.”
In my teenage years she was the glamorous big sister who was studying pharmacy at university and had a handsome boyfriend in a white car. I looked up to her. Her beautiful face, seamless grape-dark skin, the gap in her teeth inherited from our mother.