Whiteman

by Tony D'Souza

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780156032490
  • ISBN-10: 015603249X
  • Pages: 288
  • Publication Date: 04/09/2007
  • Carton Quantity: 44

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About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book

    In an Ivory Coast village where Christians and Muslims are squaring off for war, against a backdrop of bloody conflict and vibrant African life, Jack Diaz—an American relief worker—and Mamadou, his village guardian, learn that hate knows no color and that true heroism waits where we least expect it.

    During lulls in the violence, Jack learns the cycles of Africa—of hunting in the rain forest, cultivating the yam, and navigating the nuances of the language; of witchcraft, storytelling, and chivalry. Despite the omnipresence of AIDS, he courts a stunning Peul girl, meets his neighbor’s wife in the darkened forest, and desperately pursues the village flirt. Still, Jack spends many nights alone in his hut, longing for love in a place where his skin color excludes him.

    Brimming with dangerous passions and the pressures of life in a time of war, Whiteman is a stunning debut and a tale of desire, isolation, humor, action, and fear.

    Subjects

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    Africa ­Unchained

     

               At nine a.m., the doorbell rang. I couldn’t see who it was because of the high wall surrounding the house, but after a moment’s debate whether I shouldn’t just ignore it, I picked up the crowbar we’d been keeping handy and started across the courtyard to the security door. I’d talked with the girls about getting a gun in the black market, but we hadn’t gone that far yet. “Jack’s a man. He’ll protect us,” Samantha had winked and said, and I’d shaken my head and told them, “Then consider yourselves dead already.” Because while I didn’t like to think of myself as a coward, my first impulse on hearing gunfire was to hit the floor and crawl under something. At the door, I raised the crowbar like a baseball bat. I’d never swung a weapon at anyone, didn’t know if I could now, but I held it like that anyway. “C’est qui?” I shouted, trying to sound larger and more menacing than I really ­was.

     

               “Adama, restes tranquille,” a woman’s voice called to me. “C’est Méité Fanta, ta voisine.”

     

               I quickly turned the lock and pushed open the door onto Ama Méité, a weathered old woman with a steel tub on her head, the heads of the fish in it peeking down at us like ­children eavesdropping on adults. She also had a stick poking out of the corner of her mouth, an extra­-­large toothpick. Ama Méité was grandmother to the rabble of naked children who played dust­-­raising ragball on our street in Séguéla, hollering all day like they owned the place, which they did, and who had brought us water, bucket­-­by­-­paid­-­for­-­bucket, from their well during the last coup when the water and electricity had been cut in the city. Méité’s face did not change when she saw the crowbar in my hand. She went on chewing her stick, the local version of a toothbrush, as though it were a carrot, or a tasty piece of licorice. But I knew from experience that it wasn’t tasty at all, that it was infused with a bitter oil as succulent as varnish. People were like that ­here.

     

               We quickly went through the morning salutations in Worodougou, a cultural requirement you couldn’t ignore in the biggest of rushes, even if, say, you felt like the world was ­ending.

     

               “Manisogoma,” I said, lowering my eyes in respect. ‘Good morning, respected ­mother.’

     

               “Say va! Ah see la,” Ama Méité said like shouting, which was how it was done. ‘Thank you, respected sir. Did the night pass ­well?’

     

               “Em’ba, Ama,” I said. ‘Thank you, respected mother, ­yes.’

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               “Allah bis sonya!” ‘God bless your ­morning.’

     

               “Amina, Ma.” ‘Amen, ­Mother.’

     

               “Allah kenna ahdi.” ‘God grant you beautiful ­health.’

     

               “Amina, Ma,” I said, touching my hand to my forehead as if bowing in thanks and deference to her ­benedictions.

     

               “Allah ee balo,” she said. ‘God grant you a wonderful ­youth.’

     

               “Amina, Ma.”

     

               “Allah bato luma.” ‘God nourish your home and ­family.’

     

               “Amina, Ma.”

     

               “Allah bo numa.” ‘God bless all that you ­do.’

     

               “Amina, Ma,” I said louder than before, indicating in their way that I’d received all the benedictions I could bear. “Iniché, iniché. Allah ee braghee.” ‘Amen, Mother. Thank you, thank you. God bless you in thanks for your benedictions over ­me.’

     

               “Amina, Va!” ‘Amen, ­sir.’

     

    le="mso-tab-count: 1"           “Allah den balo, Ma.” ‘God bless and protect your children, ­Mother.’

     

               “Amina, Va!”

     

               “Allah kenna ahdi.” ‘God grant you beautiful ­health.’

     

               “Amina, Va!”

     

               “Allah sosay djanna.” ‘God grant you long ­life.’

     

               “Amina, Va!”

     

               “Allah bis sonya.” ‘God bless your ­morning.’

     

               “Amina, Va! Iniché. Adama Diomandé.” ‘Amen and thank you, respected Adama ­Diomandé.’

     

               Then we were done with that and Ama Méité said to me, “Bon,” flatly in French because we could now get on with our lives. I could already feel the sweat starting to stand out on my forehead, and the fish in the tub on Méité’s head seemed to me to be wilting in the sun now, hanging over the rim like the melting watches in the Dalí painting. She rolled her eyes from the weight of the load and planted her hands on her hips, which were wrapped in a wildly colored bolt of cloth depicting cellular phones. The cloth was a pagne celebrating the arrival of Nokia to our stretch of West Africa two weeks ago, and many women in Séguéla were wearing them, were tying their infants snugly onto their backs with them. Coups and guinea worm and female circumcision and HIV and mass graves in Abidjan full of the Muslim north’s political youth and the women had turned traditional dances all night around bonfires to celebrate the arrival of the cell phone. This was what West Africa was about: priorities. “So you already know about the coup,” Ama Méité chewed on her bitter stick and ­said.

     

               “Know about the coup?” I said. “All I know is that I got up this morning and turned on the radio and

  • Reviews

    PRAISE FOR WHITEMAN

    "What makes Whiteman so affecting is D’Souza’s understanding of what it’s like to fall in love with people who will never be like you, with a place that will never be home and with a troubled continent that—despite your best intentions—you can do nothing to save."—PEOPLE (Critic’s Choice)

    "Quirky, seductive and funny. The author has acquired the arts of a master storyteller, and each little tale nestled in this novel has an intoxicating, fireside charm."—LAURA MILLER, SALON

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