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.
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
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