NATIVE STRANGER: A Black American's Journey into the Heart of Africa by Eddy Harris

NATIVE STRANGER: A Black American's Journey into the Heart of Africa

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An engagingly candid account of a yearlong sojourn through Africa by Harris (Mississippi Solo, 1988), who brings to travel all the right stuff--curiosity, independence of mind, and a critical sympathy. When he set out from Paris to venture into the heart of Africa, Harris, an African-American, aimed not to find his roots but to follow the line ""that connects that place with this one, the place we came from and the place we find ourselves, those lives and our lives."" What he found was a place that infuriated him, moved him, and, ultimately, enlightened him. As Harris traveled through Tunisia, crossed the Sahara desert into Mali, and ventured on through Zaire to Zimbabwe and South Africa, he learned that in a continent where tribal and religious allegiances are more significant than race--though that can never be discounted--he was still the stranger, the rich American and not the fellow black. Congenitally friendly, Harris met and stayed with a representative mix of locals, but the cumulative effect of overwhelming poverty, government corruption, endemic passivity, and officious bureaucracy--he was thrown in jail in Liberia--was finally too much. In Zaire, on a crowded river boat, he realized that ""I didn't know where I belonged. It was so strange to be among so many black people and to have so much more in common with the handful of whites"" aboard. Harris has no answers to this dilemma: ""Africa is contradiction, and Africa brings out the contradictions in the traveler....My skin is black, my culture is not."" All that matters, in the end, is the human connection. A book of travel in the best tradition, in which the exploration of self and place ends, as all great journeys should, in the attainment of a little wisdom--and hope.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster