We Won't Budge: An African in Exile in the World

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Basic Civitas Books

Now director of the Africana Studies program at New York University, Malian native Diawara recounts his journey from rock and roll-struck adolescent to Parisian intellectual manqué, and from D.C. dishwasher to New York teacher, in sharply wrought anecdotes. Whether evoking the pleasures of family life, good company and good food or describing the anxieties of living under the gaze of the French police or the INS, Diawara's narrative hand is economical and sure. But, as he explains to a fellow Malian he meets in Paris, he is less interested in being a memoirist or historian than one "who likes to question things, people, and history." This questioning centers around the meaning of what it is to be African in an age of globalization, an uneasy immigrant to a First World increasingly nervous about those outside its gates. Diawara's account of what he sees as the systemic racisms of France and the United States derives its descriptive power not only from a residue of sometimes bitter personal experience but from an unwillingness to let that experience blind him to the ways in which that racism can be internalized on all sides and passed on. Addressing with an eloquence all the more effective for its broad tolerance the daily brutalities of Western officialdom and ignorance, he is equally concerned with the forces of conformity and superstition that can hobble his community's demand for justice and fair treatment. If Diawara offers no ultimate solutions, his passionate but balanced testimony and analysis suggest a framework for usefully seeking answers. (Publisher's Weekly)