Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

This travelogue and memoir (272 pages) was published in August of 2012 by Soft Skull Press. The book takes you to Nigeria. David read Looking for Transwonderland and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.


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Looking for Transwonderland

Travels in Nigeria

Noo Saro-Wiwa

Born in Nigeria and raised in the UK, journalist Noo Saro-Wiwa returned to her homeland to make peace with its riotous chaos and her brutal personal history. The result is this sharp mashup of travelogue, memoir, and history — a guided tour (with a sardonic host) to the best and worst Nigeria has to offer.

Noo Saro-Wiwa is the daughter of writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. An outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, he was arrested and executed in 1995. For ten years, she stayed away from Nigeria, but then she decided a reckoning was in order and traveled back to her past.

The word ‘intrepid’ is apt here, as Saro-Wiwa travels throughout the country, experiencing and documenting it all. (And surrendering herself to questionable modes of transport, including public busses with aisle-based preachers, hair-raising motorcycle taxis called okada, and rides with strangers in assorted cars and trucks.) Her journey begins in Lagos, a city that ‘never failed to deliver buttock-clenching excitement’ and, on her way to the broken-down amusement park of the title, continues through beautiful mountains, a surreal dog show, Christian churches, and the film sets of Nollywood.

Although the author feels like an outsider — not wholly Nigerian nor totally British — she’s able to take us deeper into the Nigerian community than a typical tour guide. We meet her Nigerian family members, old acquaintances of her (in)famous father, and strangers who know his name and have opinions about his actions.

It’s a complicated homecoming, shaped both by her memories and her new experiences. She shows us Nigeria through her eyes. These are no rose-colored glasses, but in the end, there is an acceptance of Nigeria’s complexities and an appreciation of its people — loud, proud, energetic, and enterprising.

As a teenager, I virtually had to be escorted by the ankles onto a Nigeria Airways flight at the start of the holidays, not only because I wanted to avoid all that airport angst, but also because i didn’t want to reach the ultimate destination. Having to spend those two months in my unglamourous, godforsaken motherland with its penchant for noise and disorder felt like a punishment… I would arrive at an airport that hadn’t been refurbished in twenty years. The humid viscous air, pointlessly stirred by sleeping ceiling fans, would smother me like a pillow and gave a foretaste of the decrepitude and discomfort that lay ahead. — Noo Saro-Wiwa

keep reading

Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got why Lagos might be a must-visit, a look at Mary Wollstonecraft, Russia's Road of Bones, the benefits of board games, and more.
Fact: Meat-on-a-stick is always the best meat. In Nigeria, skewered meat is called suya. Seasoned with garlic, ginger, smoked paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and peanuts, it's street food you can make at home.
Nigeria embodies contrasts: colorful tribal culture and the tragedy of slavery, stunning natural beauty and the megacity of Lagos, Christianity and Islam, sweet puff puffs and habanero peppers. One constant: hustle.

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