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Africa is not a country : notes on a bright continent
2022
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Summary

So often, Africa has been depicted simplistically as a uniform land of famines and safaris, poverty and strife, stripped of all nuance. In this bold and insightful book, Dipo Faloyin offers a much-needed corrective, weaving a vibrant tapestry of stories that bring to life Africa's rich diversity, communities, and histories.

Starting with an immersive description of the lively and complex urban life of Lagos, Faloyin unearths surprising truths about many African countries' colonial heritage and tells the story of the continent's struggles with democracy through seven dictatorships. With biting wit, he takes on the phenomenon of the white savior complex and brings to light the damage caused by charity campaigns of the past decades, revisiting such cultural touchstones as the KONY 2012 film. Entering into the rivalries that energize the continent, Faloyin engages in the heated debate over which West African country makes the best jollof rice and describes the strange, incongruent beauty of the African Cup of Nations. With an eye toward the future promise of the continent, he explores the youth-led cultural and political movements that are defining and reimagining Africa on their own terms.

The stories Faloyin shares are by turns joyful and enraging; proud and optimistic for the future even while they unequivocally confront the obstacles systematically set in place by former colonial powers. Brimming with humor and wit, filled with political insights, and, above all, infused with a deep love for the region, Africa Is Not a Country celebrates the energy and particularity of the continent's different cultures and communities, treating Africa with the respect it deserves.

Trade Reviews
Library Journal Review
Too often, Africa is seen monolithically, without regard to the distinctive cultures of its different countries, and as characterized primarily by poverty, political strife, and swishy safaris. Specializing in race, culture, and identity worldwide, Vice senior editor Faloyin aims to explode these stereotypes as he tracks contemporary cultural and political movements in various countries; reveals the rivalries that fire up the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament; considers the ongoing struggle between democracy and dictatorship, contextualized with reference to the ongoing consequences of colonialism; and risks entering the debate on which West African country makes the best jollof rice.
Publishers Weekly Review
Vice senior editor Faloyin debuts with a spirited critique of Western misrepresentations of Africa. Aiming to puncture the myth that Africa is "a place where nothing but misery grows," he links the 1884 Berlin Conference, which created arbitrary borders that disbursed ethnic groups across multiple countries, or, conversely, forced rival groups together, to more recent foreign interventions to "save" Africa from poverty, disease, and civil war. Noting that less than 10% of Africa is under authoritarian rule, Faloyin highlights grassroots efforts to hold governments accountable and argues that "the further the continent gets from the damage wrought by colonialism and the early ethnic battles and civil wars following independence, the more each country's attention will be focused on developing the common good." He also examines how Live Aid concerts and other fundraising efforts reveal the "complicated balance between making a difference in the world and doing more harm than good," rehashes the controversy over a documentary about Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, and highlights how the film Black Panther revealed audiences' hunger for "a richly depicted Africa." Flashes of joy and humor--including an account of British chef Jamie Oliver's ill-fated attempt to create a "hybrid verson" of jollof rice--enliven the proceedings. The result is an exuberant and informative introduction to one of the world's most diverse continents. (Sept.)
CHOICE Review
Topical and engaging, Africa Is Not a Country reminds readers of the pressing need to overcome long-established stereotypes and misperceptions about a continent that supports close to one-fifth of the world's population. Rich with personal insights into many familiar stories, the text guides readers through a varied cultural landscape, ranging from the noisiest congested backstreets of Lagos, Nigeria, to the world's museums, where African artistic heritage is held ransom by affluent Western nations. Along the way, Faloyin (senior editor, VICE) confronts some raw and challenging issues, such as the legacies of colonial boundaries imposed on African societies by European powers, the celebration of the white savior complex in Africa, and struggles for democratic rule across the continent. Faloyin also celebrates important African contributions to global artistic, culinary, musical, and film culture. The writing is lively and engaging, and Faloyin brings a deeply felt passion to his stories. The book works well as a popular narrative, though it does not offer any major revelations, and it is not cast as an academic work grounded in research. Overall, it is an enjoyable, light read and a nice introduction to the continent for the uninitiated. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. --Aran S. MacKinnon, Georgia College & State University
Booklist Review
With clarity and incisive wit, journalist Faloyin explores the origins of the 54 countries of Africa and invites readers to look beyond the stereotypes that remain at the forefront of the rest of the world's portrayals of the continent. In addition to detailing the history of European colonization and the ongoing refusal of Western museums to return stolen African artifacts, Faloyin examines topics like the contemporary cultural implications of the accents and character choices in Marvel's Black Panther. Via the viral documentary film Kony 2012, he explores the perpetuation of white savior imagery. He outlines the ongoing impact of the racist regime in the former Rhodesia, as referenced during the Charleston church shooting in 2015. A chapter dedicated to Lagos is a moving, vibrant love letter to a city and its people, while a lyrical analysis of the "Jollof Wars" will leave readers laughing and daydreaming of the "sweet, spicy, triumphantly orange and irrationally delicious rice dish" that every West African country claims to make best. The seven parts of Africa Is Not a Country are a forceful rebuttal of erased histories and simplified imagery as well as a celebration of a continent already living in its dynamic future.
Kirkus Review
A trenchant study demolishes stereotypes about Africans as a product of colonial history. Faloyin--a senior editor at VICE who was born in Chicago and raised in Lagos until age 10, when he moved to the U.K.--opens his stern and vibrant narrative with the secret 1884 "Scramble for Africa" meeting in Berlin by European powers. "In an attempt to avoid all-out war over who got to wage war on Africa," writes the author, "the mighty colonialists decided to meet and hash it all out, to come to a communal understanding as to how they could perfectly calculate their siege." While many nations had already embarked on expeditions into the continent to seize natural resources and quell Indigenous uprisings, by the beginning of World War I, "90 per cent of Africa would be controlled by Europe." The establishment of arbitrary borders often divided ethnic groups, some of whom later went to war with each other. Throughout the book, Faloyin diligently chronicles the inherited tropes that many in the West harbor about African nations. "The narrative," he writes, "suggests there is something fundamentally ungovernable about this place and its people; something extremely uncivilized about their unhealthy relationship with power." This "silent bigotry" involves the concept of White savior syndrome--yet another form of paternalism--as evinced by the Invisible Children project in Uganda and such celebrity charity campaigns as We Are the World and Live Aid. The author examines a series of dictatorships that resulted from colonial systems of divide and rule and forcefully calls out glaring cultural stereotypes about Africans in popular culture. He also addresses the alarming fact that "90 per cent of Africa's material cultural legacy is being kept outside of the continent." Faloyin weaves in his personal story as a Nigerian, using the making of Jollof rice as a unifying theme, and ends the book with forward-looking ways that African countries are managing gender and sexual violence, climate change, and other pressing matters. A well-researched, cleareyed deconstruction of highly flawed conventional wisdom about Africa. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Table of Contents
Identitiesp. 1
Part 1Lagosp. 11
Part 2By the Power Vested in Me, I Now Pronounce You a Countryp. 19
Part 3The Birth of White Saviour Imagery or How Not to Be a White Saviour While Still Making a Differencep. 67
Part 4The Story of Democracy in Seven Dictatorshipsp. 111
Part 5There Is No Such Thing as an African Accent and Binyavanga Wainaina Is Still Rightp. 185
Part 6The Case of the Stolen Artefactsp. 223
Part 7Jollof Wars: A Love Storyp. 281
Part 8What's Next?p. 307
Acknowledgementsp. 353
Notesp. 359
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Librarian's View
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245 10 $aAfrica is not a country :$bnotes on a bright continent /$cDipo Faloyin.
250 $aFirst American edition.
264 1 $aNew York :$bW.W. Norton & Company,$c2022.
300 $a380 pages ;$c22 cm
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500 $a"First published in the United Kingdom by Harvill Secker, an imprint of Vintage, a part of Penguin Random House UK under the title Africa is not a country: breaking stereotypes of modern Africa."
504 $aIncludes bibliographical references.
505 0 $aLagos -- By the Power Vested in Me, I Now Pronounce You a Country -- The Birth of White Saviour Imagery or How Not to Be a White Saviour While Still Making a Difference -- The Story of Democracy in Seven Dictatorships -- There Is No Such Thing as an African Accent and Binyavanga Wainaina Is Still Right -- The Case of the Stolen Artefacts -- Jollof Wars: A Love Story -- What's Next?
520 $a"An exuberant, opinionated, stereotype-busting view of contemporary Africa in all its splendid diversity by one of its leading new writers. A lively and diverse continent of fifty-four countries, over two thousand languages, and 1.4 billion people, Africa has long been painted with a broad brush in Western literature, media, and culture, flattening it into a monolith. In Africa is Not a Country, the acclaimed journalist Dipo Faloyin boldly counters the stereotypes and highlights the realities of Africa's communities and histories. Starting with the complex urban life of Lagos, the largest city on the continent, Faloyin then traces the history of modern Africa, revealing how arbitrary boundaries drawn by colonizers led to tribal and cultural clashes, before telling the story of democracy in 10 dictatorships. He unravels the perils and ubiquity of the "white savior complex," explores the rivalries at the heart of the African Cup of Nations tournament, and joins the heated debate over which West African country makes the best jollof rice. And with an eye towards the future promise and potential of the continent, he speaks with local activists, artists, and writers who are defining Africa on their own terms. Witty and insightful, Africa is Not a Country is an idiosyncratic and entertaining exploration of a diverse continent that deserves to finally be understood, respected, and celebrated"--$cProvided by publisher.
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