AFRICA: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent

Written by Blaine Harden
Published by Harper Collins
Reviewed by : Faith Oneya
My first instinct when I accidentally picked up a copy if this book in the library was to return it immediately! After all, I thought to myself, why would anyone want to hear a condescending Westerner (In my narrow mind I thought Blaine was a woman’s name!) tell me about my own continent? And, I added fuel to my negative thoughts; she probably thinks Africa is a country!
I flipped through a few pages and Blaine won my heart in this very paragraph;
“Africa is a painful part of the world for Westerners to come to grips with. We weep for it more out of pity than understanding. When the tears dry up, we find professionals to weep for us. Mostly, however, modern black Africa is just too depressing. It is a gloomy question mark …..only when the catastrophe meter soars way up-when the body count clicks into the tens of thousands-does Africa rise above its capacity for obscure misery. Then the West, once again, feels guilty. Pop musicians get together to sing about the family of man and raise money for handouts.”
Blaine writes about Africa like no other Westerner does. Forget Corrin Hofmann’s “White Maasai”, the horny white woman who purportedly “falls in love” with a Maasai man or the other silly books on this fascination with Maasai Men. Blaine traverses the continent through Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Zaire, Kenya and Zambia and tells the African story through the ordinary citizen and the heads state and as results manages to weave a delicately balanced view of the different states.
He personalizes the story through each African state that he visits. In Kenya, for example, he provides a strong argument for the “whys” behind the Kikuyu-Luo struggle through the Wambui Otieno and The Umira Kager clan court case.
The book is at once frightening in its bare truths and humorous in its style. This is truly a remarkable piece of work.
Lovers of history, non-fiction and those looking for balanced view of Africa will enjoy reading this.

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Author: Faith Oneya

Lover of the written and spoken word.

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