Excerpt from Africa Is Not a Country by Dipo Faloyin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Africa Is Not a Country

Notes on a Bright Continent

by Dipo Faloyin

Africa Is Not a Country by Dipo Faloyin X
Africa Is Not a Country by Dipo Faloyin
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2022, 400 pages

    Nov 7, 2023, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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Print Excerpt

Africa Is Not a Country

IDENTITIES form specifically.

I come from a place that exists somewhere between a pot of Jollof rice in the busiest kitchen in West Africa and a living room full of revolving main characters. I delight in discussion because I am forged from my family's most consistent ritual: gathering too many people in a confined space and arguing about nothing – each person giving their opinion on each person's opinion. I was born to people with conflicting recollections of events where they were both present. I grew up surrounded by family forever complaining that someone else is not telling the story right, either in accuracy or with the requisite flair. In our home, history isn't written by the winner but by whoever speaks first.

My mother is a people person, a crowd-pleaser. She is never more comfortable than when she is uncomfortable, cocooned by unfolding events out of her control, where the solution is always a family meeting. From her I inherited my love for living in highly dense populations, ensconced in noise and all-round activity; a deep joy at being boxed in by a jukebox of experiences and an extensive bus network. My mother always stays for one more song. I always stay for one more song.

My father is an extrovert on his own terms, extremely at ease in his own skin, with an urgent need to just be. His current pace is a counterweight to motion. If he could design a perfect day, it would involve a morning nap. From him I take a tranquil disposition: things are probably never as bad or as good as they seem at first. At our fastest, we are slow walkers; at our slowest, as my sister once noted, we may as well be strolling backwards.

I am half Yoruba and half Igbo. They say Yorubas just want to have a good time and Igbos just want to have a good life, which means I am programmed, anytime anywhere, to never automatically turn down an invite without, at the very least, asking some follow-up questions. I have three older sisters, which means 23 per cent of my life has been spent mourning the points I wish I had brought up in a long-finished argument.

I come from a confusingly sublime matrix of who is actually a blood relative, and a deep appreciation of heat, both in taste and touch, and the healing powers of pepper soup. I was raised with a strong belief that it is an aunty's duty to mind your business and that it is impossible to have too many cousins – two concepts I'm triggered to defend. I am from a home with an open-door policy. I am from a belief that to visit our home is to eat at our home, because food is the ultimate love language; food forgives sins and dispenses grace.

I was raised to get up early for church and stay up late for election nights. I am from a family that has never willingly gone on a beach holiday, and values intuition over organisation; a home where decisions are based on emotion rather than practicality. A strict childhood diet of arriving at events and airports too early has made me allergic to arriving at events and airports too early. Bedtimes were set, as was the understanding that children should be heard.

I am descended from a long line of bad poker faces, a clan genetically unable to hide the frustrations or joys etched in our hearts, however temporary. I am from silence being the ultimate punishment, and appreciating the eternal value of a dance floor bursting with people you love as the greatest man-made invention. I am from a philosophy that questions why you would ever order something new off a menu when you know exactly what you want; why order something new when you understand precisely who you are?

We are all the sum of a specific set of known knowns and more subtle influences that clash, combine and occasionally curdle. They are the intangibles that drive our most honest intentions and shape the essence of our personalities – something that is often too intricate, too elastic and too personal to ever give full voice to accurately, however hard we try.

Excerpted from Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent. Copyright (c) 2022 by Dipo Faloyin. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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