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A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American

by Okey Ndibe

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61695-760-5
Publisher: Soho

A Nigerian man explains how and why he moved to the United States.

Growing up in Nigeria, one of Ndibe's (Arrows of Rain, 2015, etc.) greatest dreams was to live in America. So when Chinua Achebe offered him the job of founding editor of African Commentary magazine, a position based in the U.S., Ndibe didn't hesitate to accept. With impressive storytelling skills, the author explores his Nigerian childhood, his dreams and fears, and his arrival in the U.S. during a typical New York City winter, which he “strained to find the language” to describe, eventually settling on “akin to living inside a refrigerator.” Initially, the author focuses on his first few weeks in America and then expands to encompass the many years he's lived in the country. He discusses his introduction to American culture and the variety of differences between Nigerian and American society, including how people pay for meals and when they can and cannot visit. He writes about a racial profiling episode that happened between him and a NYPD officer shortly after his arrival in the country (the officer claimed he fit the description of a bank robber), the death of his father and the British man who had been his father's lifetime friend, the day he became a U.S. citizen, and the details of how he met his wife. Ndibe also integrates amusing moments—e.g., the mix-up that his first name, Okey, caused—within his reflections on becoming a writer and attending a master’s of fine arts program where he met and worked with a number of distinguished authors. On the whole, these intriguing essays give readers a unique perspective on the U.S. and provide an inside look into Nigerian culture and traditions.

A diverse and entertaining set of memories on how a Nigerian man became an American.