His command of the politics surrounding Africa brings him to the duty of confronting colonial exploitation, misperception, and ignorance. He outlines the challenges Nigeria has endured in its quest to embrace democracy and how he's always admired the fearlessness of Wole Soyinka to stand up to tyranny. He learned from Soyinka that choosing to remain silent is akin to death. What Ndibe leaves me with most is his humanity, his ability to overcome struggle and hardship with the resilience of hope and a smile to go along.
His narrative will keep your heart pounding, but moreover he achieves the most important facet of humanity: The range and craftsmanship of this memoir is impressive, but the size of his heart is even more so. My review of Ndibe's novel Foreign Gods, Inc. May 08, Penny rated it it was ok Shelves: A lazy assemblage of essays clearly written for other publications and haphazardly jumbled into one bound volume.
Smacks of canned, stale anecdotes pulled out for radio interviews. Pretentious use of the English language. I'm glad I didn't buy it. Jul 24, Carrie Ann rated it liked it. A delightful book with charming pros and witty anecdotes about living in America for the first time from a Nigerian's perspective. I definitely enjoyed learning about another culture and how silly some of the things are about Americans from a different perspective.
It's a memoir so it's a fractured in structure and not in chronological order. Throughout the second half I kept wondering why he didn't mention more about his wife or kids and at the very end he reveals that he was somewhat of a play A delightful book with charming pros and witty anecdotes about living in America for the first time from a Nigerian's perspective.
Throughout the second half I kept wondering why he didn't mention more about his wife or kids and at the very end he reveals that he was somewhat of a playboy before getting married; it's as if he did not trust us to accept his character fully until he was able to firmly establish all the good bits first.
Which, as I have learned, is a legitimate fear of foreigners entering into a new culture so I don't blame him but it was a bit jarring because it seemed to be an admission out of nowhere at the very end and felt like a rather strange note to end on. I guess, it's important to me how the author ends and what final thoughts I'm left with, and I was left a little unsettled. Dec 19, Jenni V. I wasn't sure how to rate this one because I really liked the book but after hearing him speak at the Iowa City Book Festival, where he read a few of these chapters aloud and signed my book, just reading the rest didn't feel like enough.
This would be great to listen to as an audiobook. It was interesting because he made a note in the book that as time has passed since he was stopped by the police because they were looking for a bank robber and he fit the description basically, a black man , the I wasn't sure how to rate this one because I really liked the book but after hearing him speak at the Iowa City Book Festival, where he read a few of these chapters aloud and signed my book, just reading the rest didn't feel like enough.
It was interesting because he made a note in the book that as time has passed since he was stopped by the police because they were looking for a bank robber and he fit the description basically, a black man , the tone in how he has told the story changed from dread to humor. He told that story in the reading I attended and it's true that he made it light and humorous, as he did other events that must have been very difficult at the time. Keeping it light doesn't mean he glosses over the struggles. I needed writing badly, needed it to save me from a career in the corporate world that my studies would sentence me to.
Bohemian at heart and by habit, I dreaded the prospect of a regular eight-to-five job. Those who shut their eyes in order to see no evil, to denounce none, those who plug their ears and gag their mouths, should be under no illusion. They may delude themselves, but they cannot enter a plea of innocence in history's great carnages, its galleries of gore and horrors.
Did I read the same book as everyone else? A couple of years or so ago I had read the author's 'Foreign Gods, Inc. It was a book that really worked for me but I thought the title was interesting and thought I'd give his memoir a go. How could I not consider a book when the title talks about flying turtles, colonial ghosts and the making of a Nigerian American? Unfortunately the memoir was horribly disjointed and never captured me.
As others say, the tone of the book is quite "jovi Did I read the same book as everyone else? As others say, the tone of the book is quite "jovial" which is not necessarily a bad thing but this didn't seem like a nice flowing story of a memoir. Which didn't have to be that way either but I felt like it was more of a mishmash of anecdotes. Numerically the book is short in length but it was a slog to get through. Perhaps he's just not a good fit for me and I'll skip his other works in the future.
But it seems from other reviews that if you liked his 'Foreign Gods, Inc. Jan 01, Peter Certo rated it liked it. Oct 19, Cyd rated it it was amazing. I should admit upfront that I consider Okey Ndibe to be a friend. I loved this short memoir which tells the story of how Okey came to the United States to edit "African Commentary" magazine at the behest of Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe , and ends ultimately with meeting and marrying his wife. The journey is very much like talking to Okey himself: Sep 29, Elissa rated it it was amazing. Okey Ndibe's writing is insightful and poignant while also managing to be funny and self-deprecating, and his memoir—more a collection of essays and anecdotes—provides snippets of growing up in Nigeria, adjusting to the chilly culture of New England, finding love and friendship, developing his voice as a writer, and embracing becoming an American while still recognizing our country's cultural absurdities.
An enjoyable, enlightening read.
Jul 21, Kristen rated it liked it. This is a very difficult book to write a review on. First of all, this is a genre that I only dabble in, but I have always been fascinated by the experiences that other people have when they are first part of something that is my "normal. Okey Ndibe is an author who has written a few books, however rather than being a fiction novel, this is a personal series of essays - his own "Coming to America" only without Eddie Murphy and with a little more class.
Each of these essays is in itself very well written and thought provoking. Most of the essays are interesting, I personally enjoyed the stories of his still being in Africa the most. Africa is a continent filled with a multitude of cultures, levels of socio-economic development, and various levels of political unrest. I was fortunate enough to have brushed over some African history while in high school, however much of that is now relegated to the back of my mind somewhere between the "I think I heard something about that once" section and "That sounds vaguely familiar.
His first experience of winter was also entertaining. Each of these essays is written with love of his new country for all of it's mysteries, strangeness, and different cultures. To the American reader it can be fun to see how things we take for granted as normal life to every one, can be so foreign to others.
Where I found that I could not give this book the 4 or 5 stars that my soul wanted to, was the rather jarring and disjointed flow from one essay to another. Perhaps this was meant to be read a single essay at a time, with time between to soak up the feelings and ideas presented. But I read this from beginning to end on a flight from Detroit to LA, and followed it up with the new Neil Gaimen novel I should have brought more books for the trip home.
It was in the oddness in how the essays flowed that kept jerking me out of the happy reader cloud I was in while reading the actual essays. An example - before he leaves his homeland, his aunt asks him not to marry an American woman - so that they will be able to talk with his wife once he finds one. A few short essays later, he's clearly married and we have no idea where this woman came from or who she is She seems like she should have gotten a little more page time because I assume the dating world in the US might have been a little different and could easily have played into the themes of the book.
Then suddenly we get to the end where he meets his wife. Still almost no information about her whatsoever. Even though the book as a whole felt disjointed - one can't argue with the writing of the individual essays. They are a fascinating look into the experience of becoming an American. And even though I'm giving this book 3 stars I'm still wavering between 3 and 4 I still think some of the essays particularly the first one should be mandatory high school reads. May 18, DW rated it really liked it Shelves: Picked this up randomly because of the funny title, and the first two paragraphs sounded marvelously foreign.
Overall, I quite liked it, particularly the stories about his time in Africa and when he first came to the States. The parts about him being in grad school were dull. I also didn't like how he interrupted his interesting story about needing to rush home on Christmas so he could eat chicken and rice, with several boring pages of backstory about important African writers and how he met one Picked this up randomly because of the funny title, and the first two paragraphs sounded marvelously foreign.
I also didn't like how he interrupted his interesting story about needing to rush home on Christmas so he could eat chicken and rice, with several boring pages of backstory about important African writers and how he met one of them. Of course the story was needed for the punchline, but it would have been better to do the backstory in advance, or at least limit it to a couple paragraphs at most. He actually went back and did another 1. The fact that he edited the magazine on scanty funds, had to explain to writers why they weren't being paid, and was himself paid only in groceries many weeks, so he had to beg and borrow money from friends to send to his family.
Of course the mistaken bank robber story is great Nigerian cops aren't polite, getting in a police car in Nigeria means you might get "wasted" shot in some back alley mostly because he forgot to tell the kids that he had been cleared of the charge and the prof was arguing with the police that indeed that they had indeed arrested him when he turned up in his office. The one about him lying to the visa officer, being denied, then talking to his friend and getting the visa, was weird. Why couldn't he say just say he was going to edit a magazine?
If he got the visa to attend a conference, wouldn't he be overstaying it? His unsuccessful attempt to show Americans that personal space is unnecessary by showing up at their house unannounced I agree, somehow that doesn't work in America. The stories about confusion because of his name sounding like "Okay". I doubt that people today would have swallowed his story about riding from Africa on the backs of crocodiles well, anybody over the age of 5 , or that Africans all lived in trees I think that story was from the 's though.
There were a couple stories I wanted to hear the other side of - surely Chinua Achebe wasn't that arbitrary and controlling? And the girl he didn't like because she invited him to lunch and then expected to go Dutch in Nigeria the inviter pays That is pretty humiliating to have printed in a newspaper that your abandoned child is seeking you by name. His writing style was odd, filled with big words - cynosure?
And after reading about how he is a gregarious and friendly storyteller, I was shocked to see the picture of him unsmiling and annoyed on the dustjacket. Especially after reading about how Nigerians never lack for friends unless they are extremely antisocial. Maybe that is the American thing, we all smile for pictures, but those smiles don't extend to being friends with everybody. May 20, Michael rated it really liked it. I saw this on the new non-fiction shelves at the public library.
On the back cover it notes that Ndibe is the author of "Foreign Gods, Inc. This is a pleasant first person memoir of a Nigerian coming to America, eventually becoming a citizen. The magazine turns out to be a hopeless endeavor, not because of the writing or topic but because it was underfinanced. The book gives a good picture of Ndibe's life in Nigeria before coming to the U. As an articulate writer, Ndibe provides food for thought on the conflict immigrants must feel between the country and culture they have left at least nominally and their feelings for the United States.
Some of that discussion or musings in the book are among the most interesting parts. I am not sure how to characterize English as a language for Ndibe - I'm not sure it is accurate to characterize it as a second language since he grew up reading and speaking English to some extent in Nigeria if I'm understanding the book correctly. Still, for an easy going narrative memoir like this, sometimes I was alternatively intrigued or amused by Ndibe's word use - sometimes it was with Britishisms, like "cheeky," but also just surprising constructions and word choices - "the doleful sign was writ even more large for me" for example, or "the letter brimmed with resentment and outrage.
The book is slightly more than pages and I was drawn in sufficiently to read it from beginning to end without putting it aside because of some distraction that is, another book. Mar 21, Marcy rated it it was amazing. This is Okey Ndibe's memoir. His voice in different chapters are humorous, profound, or sad. Okey's first chapter described his family's poverty.
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As a child, Okey dreamed of food, of a fancy car, etc. He had an "itch" for America. When Okey met Professor Chinua Achebe when he was a new journalist in Nigeria, Okey interviewed Achebe and realized later that his tape recorder was not working. Okey had to call Achebe back and ask for a second interview. Sometime later, Chinua Achebe asked Okey if he would be the founding editor of a magazine established in the U. This was Okey's chance to scratch his itch. In the United States, when Okey, pronounced okay , was in a grocery store, he was introduced as "Okey"by Okey's friend.
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- What American parenting looks like – through the eyes of a British mum;
The woman assumed that Okey's friend was saying that she was "okay" to "be" with Okey, and she left, quite angry at the assumption. Okey writes a few humorous anecdotes. One of the most earnest chapters was when Okey became an American citizen. Did becoming an American entail an obligation, as my mother no doubt feared, that I had "unbecome" what I had been before, an Igbo, a Nigerian, an African?
Okey's reasons for becoming an American did not occur without profound thought that he expresses so beautifully in one of his chapters.
What American parenting looks like – through the eyes of a British mum
I enjoyed reading each chapter, rereading parts that required "close reading" to fully understand Okey's meaning. Okey is wise, thoughtful, and full of energy. He loves other writers for their astute and insightful ideas about life. I wonder if Okey realizes, that he, too, is intense, earnest and every bit as intelligent "on paper" as those writers he reveres. Mar 08, Genevieve rated it liked it. Okey Ndibe's memoir traces his journey from his Nigerian homeland to the United States, his adopted country.
I enjoyed his commentary on Nigerian and American cultures, and his warmth and good humor made me wish that he were me real-life friend, the sort of friend who might drop by unannounced, Nigerian-style. Ndibe's frequent mentions of African authors who have influenced him made me resolve to read more books by African authors. The part of the book that moved me the most was Ndibe's tribute Okey Ndibe's memoir traces his journey from his Nigerian homeland to the United States, his adopted country.
The part of the book that moved me the most was Ndibe's tribute to his father, a loyal, loving husband whose demonstrative affection toward his wife was a violation of social norms. I was particularly touched by the chapter detailing his father's enduring friendship with a British man he met in World War 2. Why a 3-star rating, instead of 4 or 5 stars? The narrative jumped around chronologically, and though it didn't exactly feel cohesive, I didn't mind that. My main complaint was that Ndibe's long-windedness which he admits to in the book sometimes bordered on laboriousness.
I thought that some of his stories could have been told in half the words. I was listening to a recorded book, so it's difficult to tell how much of my impatience stemmed from the narrator's measured, detached, almost stilted style. May 27, Noemi rated it really liked it Shelves: Having read two novels by Okey Ndibe, I thought I'd check out his memoir.
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I would recommend it even if you've never read his novels. Interesting, insightful yet funny. It's one of those memoirs that makes you want to actually meet the author in person. The audiobook was narrated by Peter Jay Fernandez. At first, I found his detached, almost amused-sounding tone to clash with the text, but within a few chapters, the text started matching the narrator's tone.
I wonder if he should have sounded a bi Having read two novels by Okey Ndibe, I thought I'd check out his memoir. I wonder if he should have sounded a bit less detached at the beginning, before the book became more humorous. Mar 21, Harriet Levin rated it it was amazing. I taught this book this term and the students loved it. It was a funny, heart-warming looking into an immigrant's adjustment to life in the US. The writing is exceptional and moves like a conversation you don't want to end.
In fact, it was great to 'overhear' Ndibe's life-story.
Wise and important, never overstating itself, the writing crackles and crunches, carrying the context in clear illumination of life as seen through the eyes of an outsider—a state of mind I am very interested in. This was a strange book. I thought it would be funnier. It was disjointed, the writing seemed awkward, he used words, incorrectly sometimes, that came right from the thesaurus and often sounded pretentious while he criticized other writers for doing the same thing. There was no order or continuity to the essays.
I'm guessing that if he had an editor at all, he ignored any advice the editor gave him. It was just okay. Discussing not just character and class, but also adding dress, money and advertising to the mix, the first chapter gives an example of the frustrating aspects of this book. Also, the chapter not only makes it seem as if Europeans described an America free of class divisions, labor problems, and working class servility, but that this actually was the reality. Certainly the Irish, Italian, Polish, Hispanic, Chinese, or African-American factory worker, railroad builder, domestic, or common laborer would have disagreed.
The built environment, not just cities but also transportation, forms the subject of chapter two. Picking up speed the next two chapters are probably the most problematic in the whole book. One could ask, for instance, how is gun use really a personal habit. Even if it is, is it comparable to dining and drinking? Also, do we need separate sections on tobacco chewing 1 page or copyright?
Kenneth D. Rose. Unspeakable Awfulness: America Through the Eyes of European Travelers,
Still, while we do learn that most travelers were at least relatively wealthy or wrote for a living, we get practically nothing on the backgrounds and motives of individual travelers. Why most came to America at the time they did also remains pretty much a mystery. While direct quotations enliven the text nicely, overt prioritizing of quotes from primary sources at the expense of analysis or historical context does at times make for a rather hollow, fragmentary, reading experience.
Now and again the text bears a resemblance to an endless avalanche of quotations. One can find ten or more quotes on a single page. With each source pretty much having its own note, for example the sixteen pages of text in Chapter 3 and the thirteen pages of Chapter 4 contain no less than and endnotes, respectively. First, in Chapter 6 the author provides intimate insights into southern mentalities as witnessed by travelers.
Post-emancipation South appears as a scarred and troubled society engaged in the process of reinvention at the dawn of Jim Crow. We also get to read some interesting views as European travelers assess the experience and transformation European immigrants were undergoing in their new chosen homes. The last chapter also offers a pleasant tour of travelers and the American West, discussing travel writings pertaining to vast lands although the Southwest is curiously absent , Indians, Wild West shows, and tourists, among other things.
Travel writing and its history represent not merely a genre that refuses to die, but can offer especially intriguing vistas for scholars working on transnational, colonial, or borderlands histories, especially for those interested in the processes of cross-cultural relations, othering, and identity-building. What this book represents is a spectrum of the possibilities. It might entertain the casual reader, but it can also offer the specialist avenues of investigation through its bewildering selection of themes and by introducing a wide selection of primary sources.
America Through the Eyes of European Travelers,