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Native Stranger: A Blackamerican's Journey into the Heart of Africa Hardcover – Import, 1992
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
Top customer reviews
Eddy backpacked throughout Africa over a year. His writes at length about living among Africans and describing the mind-boggling poverty, the horrible societal injustices in country after country, and yet all the beauty he encounters. Eddy is remarkably soft-hearted and reflective in many scenes. This is the book to read if you've always wanted to visit Africa, but don't have the money or guts to do it.
Africans, seeing him as American, spend the entire book ripping him off, and he cooperates. Just the thing.
He begins this 1992 book by saying, "Because my skin is black you will say I traveled Africa to find the roots of my race. I did not---unless that race is the human race, for except in the color of my skin, I am not African. If I didn't know it then, I know it now. I am a product of the culture that raised me. And yet Africa was suddenly like a magnet drawing me close, important in ways that I cannot explain, rising in my subconscious and inviting me."
Here are some other quotations from the book:
"Suddenly I was part of a group of German and American tourists with whom I had much in common. I found myself realizing that something as subtle as culture could mean infinitely more than something as overt and obvious as the color of my skin." (Pg. 69)
"In Africa it is called tribalism. Racism doesn't rest on white shoulders alone. It exists wherever some men have what other men want---power, money, jobs, women, food. As long as there is a way for them to keep things for themselves and for others like them. We hunger to belong and we search for ways to identify the ones who are like us and the ones who are not. Race, color, family, tribe, and religion... We will always find a way." (Pg. 127)
"I ask myself, is it the African character or the colonial presence that defines the way Africa is? The colonials clearly have not left, and Africa asserts its own authority any way it can. And Africans readily submit to authority. They have no tradition of democracy and self-assertion, but of a central authority figure who is leader and father at the same time. Their tradition is devotion to family and tribe. Their tradition is to trust, to surrender to authority, to submit to the will of God, submission to power." (Pg. 174)
"Racism seems to be the one thing that every black person in the entire world knows about America. It is a little disheartening." (Pg. 181)
"The politics of Africa are a mire of vexation... Africa is trying to find its way and desperately needs to, but as long as European powers continue to intervene, as long as colonialism continues, Africa never will." (Pg. 294)
"My skin is black. My culture is not. After almost a year in Africa, I have no answers. Only this one question remains: Who am I? I have more in common, it sometimes seems, with Dutch Afrikaner, the Boer." (Pg. 311)
Harris not only explores his terrain, he explores its people, its customs and the reaction he gets from Africans. At the same time, he explores his own inner being: what did he, as a Blackamerican, expect to get out of Africa? What did he really come to understand? And so on. As much as the book is about Africa the continent (and the reader is treated to descriptions of villages, recreation, transport, jungles, wildlife, etc.), it is about skin color, people, race, generosity, need, pride, and everything else that makes people human.
The description was beautiful and powerful: I would put the book down for the night, and when I started it again, would be transported instantly back to where Harris was and what he was experiencing, without any sense of a break.
This book deals with the generosity of a people who have nothing, thje patient endurance of a people who have been trampled on for centuries. This is not to say that the book was a typical liberal interpretation of the Third World; nor were Harris' experiences as a black man what one might expect. In fact, Harris' honesty was astounding. He described his neuroses about germs (and how he had to get over that in a hurry!), his anger at the condition of the African people, his sadness and pity at the tyranny of black officals. And in South Africa, he found not only a peace which he did not expect, he even felt so overwhelmed he retreated into a formerly white-only luxury hotel, an oasis amid the poverty of the black population. This, of course, was the source of further inner exploration about his guilt and his place as a black man, but an American - a true "Native Stranger."