Kinship: A Family's Journey in Africa and America

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9780452278929: Kinship: A Family's Journey in Africa and America

A unique memoir chronicles the fortunes of a family led by an African-American mother and a Congolese father, living both in Boston and in Tanzania, discussing the misunderstandings that divide Africans from African-Americans and extolling the traditions of both cultures. Reprint.

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Review:

With his bicultural heritage, journalist Philippe Wamba--born of an African American mother and Congolese father and reared in California, Boston, Tanzania, and the Congo--offers an evenhanded and encyclopedic examination of the facts and fictions that have grown on both sides of the Atlantic. "My Blackness has been the bridge that has linked my two identities," he writes, "the commonality that my split selves share." In this exceptional book, Wamba recounts the long history of the African image among black Americans, from the 18th-century Senegal-born slave poet Phyllis Wheatley to Marcus Garvey, the fiery back-to-Africa "race man" of the early 1900s. Across the water, Wamba tells how Africans waited for Afro-Americans to liberate them from colonialism, and how their leaders like Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, and Patrice Lumumba interacted with their transatlantic brethren. Wamba also recalls how he was treated as a foreigner in Tanzania, the ambivalence his mother received from his paternal relatives, and the idealism that U.S. blacks have of the continent, which at times has led to uncritical support of corrupt dictators like the former Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko (who once imprisoned Wamba's activist father). As he relates how Michael Jackson sneaks Swahili words in his songs while African kids incorporate hip-hop slang into their vocabulary, Wamba lays out the past perils and, ultimately, the future promise of transcontinental black unity. "I have discovered that African Americans and Africans are culturally distinct," he says. "But through the evidence of history and my own personal experience, I have learned that Africans and Black Americans can move beyond their real and perceived differences to celebrate and build on what they share." --Eugene Holley Jr.

About the Author:

Philippe Wamba was born in the United States and raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, has a master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism, and his articles and features have appeared in journals and newspapers in London, Africa, and the United States. He lives in New York City.

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