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Reviews of Africa Is Not a Country by Dipo Faloyin

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

    Paperback:
    Nov 2023, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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About this Book

Book Summary

An exuberant, opinionated, stereotype-busting portrait of contemporary Africa in all its splendid diversity, by one of its leading new writers.

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.

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 ...

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Reviews

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Joys and revelations abound in Africa Is Not a Country, but perhaps the most satisfying aspect is Faloyin's ability to weave together Africa's painful past with its infinite promise for a brighter future — on its own terms. Highlighting the more positive developments, such as the "significant rise in the number of elected female legislators and women selected for high-ranking government positions" throughout Africa, Faloyin circles back around to the power of individual human beings to be effective in their communities. In the pages of Faloyin's tender and (ir)reverent paean to Africa, the reader will find a very bright continent, indeed...continued

Full Review (933 words)

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(Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
With clarity and incisive wit, journalist Faloyin explores the origins of the 54 countries of Africa...Africa Is Not a Country [is] a forceful rebuttal of erased histories and simplified imagery as well as a celebration of a continent already living its dynamic future.

Kirkus Reviews
A trenchant study demolishes stereotypes about Africans as a product of colonial history...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.

Publishers Weekly
VICE senior editor Faloyin debuts with a spirited critique of Western misrepresentations of 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.

New York Times
[I]t's impossible not to relish a book that boasts an entire section on jollof rice, and the horrific moment when the British chef Jamie Oliver riffed on the classic West African dish in an act of desecration "comparable to a passer-by suggesting they attempt brain surgery for the first time using your grandmother as a guinea pig." But while Faloyin excels at articulating the complaint, he has little to offer as a remedy to a problem rooted in a centuries-old global power imbalance.

Author Blurb J K Chukwu, author of The Unfortunates
An impeccably researched work, brimming with humor and intellect. A necessary read for 2022.

Author Blurb Nels Abbey, coauthor of Think Like a White Man
A triumph of a book. A charismatic and hugely enjoyable read packed full of essential information―revealing a huge, vastly diverse set of stories, situations, and histories that really do pop the balloon of lazy stereotyping of Africa. You'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't read this book.

Author Blurb Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland
This book is hilarious, ferocious, generous, and convincing. It made me reconsider almost everything I thought I knew about Africa, which is somewhere we often hear about, but far too rarely hear from.

Reader Reviews

Anthony Conty

Nonfiction At Its Best
"Africa Is Not a Country" by Dipo Faloyin starts by explaining what Africa is not. As with people who have taken a safari or done missionary work, it is easy to forget that cities and organized towns exist where no touristy activities occur. More to ...   Read More
Marna Napoleon

A Minor Suggestion
This is an amazing and valuable book! Everyone to whom I have given this book agrees. That said, we also agree that a map would be a helpful addition.

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Beyond the Book

The White-Savior Complex

What exactly is a white-savior complex (also known as white saviorism)? In Dipo Faloyin's Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent, the definition is not as important as the negative impacts upon those who experience it.

According to Black Equality Resources, white-savior complex is defined as "an idea in which a white person, or more broadly a white culture, 'rescues' people of color from their own situation." The phenomenon manifests most visibly in the realms of media, activism and volunteerism, and essentially "imposes the notion that the white person knows what communities of color need, rather than listening to how they can truly be of help."

This insidious complex was roundly condemned 10 years ago in an article by ...

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