An American journalist finds the loves of his life in Africa.
New York Times columnist Zachary (Journalism and Writing/Stanford Univ.; The Diversity Advantage: Multicultural Identity in the New World Economy, 2003) delves within to examine the development of his relationship with his wife. In July 2001, he retreated to Ghana to write a mystery novel. At the Accra Zoo he met Chizo Okon, keeper of an abandoned chimpanzee. The novel went nowhere, but the two fell in love as they spent the next few weeks together. Seeking to unravel the mysterious attraction between a Jew from Flatbush (transplanted to northern California) and an Igbo woman from Nigeria, the author attributes some of it to the joie de vivre culture of Ghana, where their relationship blossomed. “I sensed I could learn important lessons from this African woman,” he writes, “at least about living in the present. Until I met her, I had lived only in the past and in the future…This woman immersed herself in the fullness of the moment with a curious ease that I took for wisdom…I wanted a present and, I would later come to realize, she wanted a past and a future.” Though the narrative revolves around the couple’s negotiation of issues arising from their differing skin colors and cultural bases—Zachary’s depictions of the in-law introductions for each partner are priceless—it also reveals the author’s great affection for Africa. “In America, life is cloaked in a heavy garment of fear, anxiety and the relentless drive for self-protection,” she writes. “In Africa, outer armor is stripped away, and people are permitted—dare I say entitled?—to experience the rawness of their own solitary human predicament. For reasons I cannot comprehend, in Africa I feel more human than in America.”
Zachary’s witty tale of opposites attracted also provides an illuminating portrait of African and American daily lives.