An Episcopal priest reflects on his volatile years spent in Africa and its incredible landscape in this debut memoir.
In Los Angeles in the early 1950s, Mallory had just entered UCLA, started a family, and was looking forward to an affluent life. At the same time, a similarly young South African named Jacob Kuhangwa faced the harsh realities of apartheid and a difficult journey across the continent. “I fussed because a light rain made things unpleasant; where Jacob lived, crops were failing and people were dying because of a prolonged drought,” Mallory writes. He follows the sharp contrast between these two parallel journeys until they meet years later in New York City, where Jacob first inspired Mallory—at the time completing seminary school—to pursue his priesthood in South-West Africa. “Who in their right mind would choose that over wealthy San Marino?” Mallory asks. “I wasn’t in my right mind, but I chose Africa.” The decision led him, his wife, and their young child to the mining town of Tsumeb, controlled by a nefarious American businessman who warned them not to make trouble. Over the course of nearly two decades, Mallory and his family traveled and lived across southern and eastern Africa, including Botswana, Uganda, and South Sudan—“years…finding nothing but harsh laws and cruel treatment.” But they also discovered hope as Mallory’s own worldview expanded exponentially with each attempt to challenge racism, injustice, and homophobia. Exceedingly diligent in constructing his memoir, Mallory brings scholarly attention to the various tribes and countries he encountered, always choosing complex qualifications over sweeping generalizations. But he also creates an intimacy reminiscent of more emotionally driven memoirs, namely Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa. Later sections can be burdened by this attentiveness, with Mallory dedicating too many pages to the minutiae of everyday life or church politics; these sections never attain the same exciting rhythm that the author’s early parallels with Jacob achieve. But overall, Mallory’s tendency to question and analyze every detail offers readers a rich and intricate view of African societies through the late 20th century.
A history, both broad and personal, of social struggles throughout Africa, told with care and depth.