Summary and book reviews of Fisherman's Blues by Anna Badkhen

Fisherman's Blues

A West African Community at Sea

by Anna Badkhen

Fisherman's Blues by Anna Badkhen X
Fisherman's Blues by Anna Badkhen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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About this Book

Book Summary

An intimate account of life in a West African fishing village, tugged by currents ancient and modern, and dependent on an ocean that is being radically transformed.

The sea is broken, fishermen say. The sea is empty. The genii have taken the fish elsewhere.

For centuries, fishermen have launched their pirogues from the Senegalese port of Joal, where the fish used to be so plentiful a man could dip his hand into the grey-green ocean and pull one out as big as his thigh. But in an Atlantic decimated by overfishing and climate change, the fish are harder and harder to find.

Here, Badkhen discovers, all boundaries are permeable - between land and sea, between myth and truth, even between storyteller and story. Fisherman's Blues immerses us in a community navigating a time of unprecedented environmental, economic, and cultural upheaval with resilience, ingenuity, and wonder.

Excerpt
Fisherman's Blues

End of the rainy season, high tide, a viscous black predawn. The Milky Way bulges, drips stars. Mahogany keels of fishing pirogues grate against the sucking purl. In the wrack before the moored thirty-footer the Sakhari Souaré her groggy crew stand barefoot in silence. It is not time yet.

A light approaches along the tideline, winks, grows. A fishwife. Her pace is measured, her slack arms swing lightly with her step, her back is very straight. She is wearing a mermaid dress. On her head flames a colossal brazier. She does not slow down when she reaches the fishers, and she passes them without greeting and walks away until she flickers out into the sweaty black.

* * *

Dawn spills astern: lavender, violet, golden. Capillary waves gently scale the ocean all the way to the horizon. Wind clots low fog. The Sakhari Souaré glides at full throttle west-southwest, rolls over lazy six-foot swells. The shore's low skyline of baobab and eucalyptus ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

[Badkhen] shines a spotlight on a community that is not often featured in the news or on screen, and for that she must be commended. Although it may seem like these lives are somehow simple and serene, she shows that they are plagued with the same worries that keep all of us up at night - the safety and well-being of our families, the desire for self-fulfillment and, on a larger scale, the impact we have on our environment...Further, Badkhen is fully willing to do hard work - she blisters her hands pulling nets, bakes in the sun while helping to build a boat and expends emotional energy consoling abandoned wives in the community; clearly she is not afraid to fully immerse herself. Yet there is a piece missing and it is the one she reserves for herself; her writing looks in more than it looks out and we find ourselves wishing to break free, to see more of what she has chosen to obscure...continued

Full Review (569 words).

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(Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Lyrical, precise, and lucent... This is a moving tribute to a traditional way of life facing enormous change.

Library Journal
Those interested in the global environmental crisis and its impact on indigenous societies will be fascinated by this first-person account of learning about other cultures in an attempt to save our planet.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Evocative [and] hauntingly beautiful...a moving tribute to a traditional way of life facing enormous change.

Author Blurb James McBride
This book is a peek at a side of West Africa few of us have seen or will ever see...Their way of life is an ode to humanity, and I'm so glad Anna Badkhen, one of the most creative and important non-fiction writers in our era, has allowed us to know them.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Jinn of Senegal

JinnIn Fisherman's Blues, Anna Badkhen takes us on a trip to the West African nation of Senegal. Although her primary focus is on the families who make their living in and around the ocean, another thread emerges - the fascinating stories of the jinn. The magical power of these equally magical creatures is described in stories of great success or misfortune, both at sea or on land, yet the jinn are also present in family life - they curse or bless children born to a specific house, they fall in love and even marry, they hold grudges and require appeasement. Possessing both superhuman strengths and very human weaknesses, these creatures present an interesting paradox, much like the region they inhabit.

According to the Quran, God created the ...

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