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Shaffer's vivid travel memoir captures scenes of Kenya, Mali and, most notably, Ghana, rarely seen by American tourists. Fleeing a marriage proposal from her boyfriend in California, Shaffer, a white 27-year-old upper-middle-class performance artist with progressive politics, decides to travel, choosing to participate in various volunteer efforts in order to spend more time and less money in Africa. Her tales are rich in visual and cultural explication; villages and hamlets too tiny for names come to hot, vibrant, scent-laden, insect-thrumming life as Shaffer depicts the dailiness of African culture and the struggle to subsist. The unrelenting heat, ubiquitous disease and economic chaos make Africans eager to leave. Unfortunately, racism and privilege underlie Shaffer's travelogue, and she does not fully address either. In one of the book's best chapters, Shaffer meets Nadhiri, a black separatist from Berkeley with whom she does a complex sociopolitical dance in which Nadhiri's prejudice is revealed, but Shaffer's own motives are not. Throughout, Shaffer notes the bigotry of Africans toward African-Americans, but never her possible own. Nor does she explore the reality of grinding African poverty in comparison to her own relatively immense privilege. Regrettably, no coda follows Shaffer's compelling memoir. In the end, Shaffer battles malaria, leaving readers caught in her febrile dreams of Africa and her California lover, wishing the author had deepened her reportage. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Disillusioned with her relationship with her adoring boyfriend, Michael, Shaffer decided to go to West Africa. She signed on to some building projects, and the loose commitment allowed her freedom to explore the communities she lived in and to move between countries. Most of her time was spent in Ghana. There she encountered Hannah, a fragile Dutch aid worker whose spirit was tested by a love affair gone bad and a friendship wrecked by a brutal husband. Shaffer is enchanted by baby Yao, and when he fell ill, she went to great lengths to save him, alienating his mother in the process. An overzealous Ghanaian woman named Christy befriended Shaffer and one of her fellow aid workers and soon became omnipresent in their lives. When Shaffer left Ghana, she decided to go to Timbuktu, but the journey proved to be arduous and dangerous. Shaffer is a natural storyteller and she evokes the villages she visited and the people she met masterfully. Readers interested in life in Africa will be enthralled by her tales. Kristine Huntley
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This book ranks up there among my favorites - Tanya does an amazing job communicating her experiences in Africa as a volunteer with humor, intelligence and objectivity.Published on May 30, 2013 by chickenlil
Having been to all the same areas the book is written about I really thought this was an excellent travel memoir and a very good depiction of life/travel in this area of west... Read morePublished on December 29, 2008 by Happypoppeye
For anyone who plans on spending time in West Africa, this is a must read. Shaffer does a near-perfect job describing the everyday humor and frustrations of traveling in the... Read morePublished on July 26, 2008 by Global Citizen
I first came across Tanya's writing in a Best Travel Writing anthology (Traveller's Tale 2007). That particular piece, The Girl Who Drank Petrol, was easily the most enjoyable in... Read morePublished on May 3, 2008 by T. K. Eng
I've actually read this twice already and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. I travel a lot as well (for work and for fun) and hearing Tanya's retelling of her experiences in some... Read morePublished on March 16, 2007 by Book Lover
This book not only covers Ghana but also parts of Burkina Faso and Mali. I always love books that are written by women it glues you to the book, books written by women are full of... Read morePublished on May 6, 2006 by M. ravasizadeh
Any traveler, male or female, who loves Africa in all its glory and horror, should read this book. Poignant, funny, wise, with a good background riff on the meaning of love and... Read morePublished on December 23, 2003 by James O'Reilly