by Manthia Diawara
"When Manthia Diawara was in high school, he would pray to Allah to let him get out of Mali, study in Europe, and live happily at least until age fifty. To ask for anything more, he thought, would be tempting fate. Thirty years after leaving his native West Africa, he has a home and career in New York City, and more than a few acclaimed books and films to his name. Still, he cannot shake the memories of his country of birth - or of his first place of self-imposed exile: the streets of 1970s Paris." In this memoir, Diawara revisits his early years as an African emigrant in love with Swedish girls and American rock and roll. Taking us from the nightclubs of his hometown Bamako, to the cafes of Boulevard Montparnasse, to the black neighborhoods of 1970s Washington D.C., Diawara brings to life the generation of Africans who were drawn to the promise of Western equality and prosperity in the heady days of the international student movement. Now able to look at the assimilation process from a more nuanced perspective, he confronts the prejudices of those who assume he is simply another unwanted illegal immigrant, and yet watches his fifteen-year-old son walk around Paris free of the suspicion that can haunt young black men in New York. But he is also brought back to his life-altering decision to "move on" to the United States, as well as the broken dreams of those who returned to Africa, driven either by homesickness or the immigration department.
Hardcover: 271 pages