In her memoir, Dennis (Slaves to Racism, 2008) describes falling in love with the son of a Liberian tribal chief.
As a freshman college student, Dennis naively asked her anthropology professor, “Do they have newspapers in Africa?” As the son of a tribal chief in Liberia with an international background and sweet temperament, Benjamin Dennis answered her question without condescension and formed a close bond with his young pupil, which quickly led to romance. Family, race, and religion all worked to keep the two apart, but after moving to New York and meeting the ideal German Lutheran candidate for an “everyday marriage in a white community,” Dennis realized what she wanted and married her former professor. After they had their first child, the author split her life between visiting with Ben’s people in the remote Vahun village of Liberia’s Upcountry and being a working mother in southern Ohio and Flint, Michigan. Dennis outlines her life-changing relationship, adjustments to a foreign country, retirement, and religious faith. Although she acknowledges Liberia’s volatile political situation and racial tensions in the U.S., her husband’s status as foreign royalty made her experiences feel sheltered in comparison to those in other works about interracial marriage or unstable African nations. She writes at one point that the ramifications of racism “weren’t personal, since I married a black foreigner rather than an American black.” Her first trip to tribal Africa is also filled with “a round of parties, receptions, and social affairs with government dignitaries.” Despite this occasional insulation from Liberia’s turbulence, Dennis led a life filled with remarkable events and translated them into an entertaining memoir. Her confusing tendency to introduce chapters with the mention of new occurrences before providing context interrupts the story’s flow, but overall she proves to be a storyteller with a keen eye for detail and fully re-creates the complexities of her marriage and the exciting challenges she faced in Africa.
cleareyed memoir about navigating fraught relationships and other cultures.