Cover image for Always another country : a memoir of exile and home
Title:
Always another country : a memoir of exile and home
ISBN:
9781642860009
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : World Editions, LLC, 2018.

©2017
Physical Description:
365 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Contents:
Prologue -- Burley Court -- S.E.X. -- Gogo Lindi -- The odour of teeth -- Kenya -- O! Canada -- The bike -- The return to South Africa -- College girl -- Black girl in America -- The fire before freedom -- Freedom -- Jason -- Folie a deux -- Home -- New blacks, old whites -- Simon -- Aids -- Amakwerekwere -- Congo Road -- Becoming a mother -- The violence -- Failure -- Why I write -- Mothers and daughters -- The end.
Summary:
"Born in exile, in Zambia, to a guerrilla father and a working mother, Sisonke Msimang is constantly on the move. Her parents, talented and highly educated, travel from Zambia to Kenya and Canada and beyond with their young family. Always the outsider, and against a backdrop of racism and xenophobia, Sisonke develops her keenly perceptive view of the world. In this sparkling account of a young girl's path to womanhood, Sisonke interweaves her personal story with her political awakening in America and Africa, her euphoria at returning to the new South Africa, and her disillusionment with the new elites"-- Publisher's description.
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Book 928.21 Msima
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Book 928.21 Msima
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Book 928.21 Msima
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Summary

Summary

New York Times Staff Favorite of 2018

Minnesota Public Radio Best Books of 2018 - Nonfiction

CBC Best International Nonfiction of 2018

The Globe 100 Favourite Books of 2018

Born in exile, in Zambia, to a guerrilla father and a working mother, Sisonke Msimang is constantly on the move. Her parents, talented and highly educated, travel from Zambia to Kenya and Canada and beyond with their young family. Always the outsider, and against a backdrop of racism and xenophobia, Sisonke develops her keenly perceptive view of the world. In this sparkling account of a young girl's path to womanhood, Sisonke interweaves her personal story with her political awakening in America and Africa, her euphoria at returning to the new South Africa, and her disillusionment with the new elites. Confidential and reflective, Always Another Country is a search for belonging and identity: a warm and intimate story that will move many readers.


Author Notes

Sisonke Msimang (Swaziland, 1974) is a South African writer, speaker and political analyst in issues related to race, gender and democracy. With her successful literary debut, Always Another Country , she has established herself as one of the most exciting new contemporary voices in literature. Born to parents living in political exile, Sisonke Msimang was raised in Zambia, Kenya and Canada, before going to the US as an undergraduate. She has a Master's Degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Macalester College in the Minnesota. She has held fellowships at Yale University and the Aspen Institute and was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World EconomicForum (WEF). She has worked for the United Nations and as an Executive Director of George Soros's Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. Now based in Perth, Australia, she is Program Director for the Centre for Stories, a social enterprise organization, from where she travels regularly to the US, South Africa and other countries. She contributes to publications such as The New York Times , The Guardian and The Huffington Post , and has over 20,000 followers on Twitter (@Sisonkemsimang). Her TED Talk, "If a story moves you, act on it," has been viewed over one million times.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Before personal and political events finally allowed her to go home to South Africa, Msimang spent her first 20-plus years in peripatetic exile. Born in Zambia, Msimang and her two younger sisters were raised on a diet of communist propaganda and schooled in radical Africanist discourse, in the shadows of their father's hope and their mother's practicality. As freedom fighters, Msimang's parents kept the family mobile, migrating to Kenya, Canada, back to Kenya, and Ethiopia, before arriving in South Africa after Nelson Mandela's release from prison, the ANC's rise to power, and the end of apartheid. Beyond a short visit in 1990, Msimang didn't live in South Africa until after college and a first-love-fueled rebellion that took her briefly to Oakland. Her country's freedom comes with confrontation, responsibility, disillusionment, violence, and, for her, the painful recognition of her own educated, elite privilege. Hauntingly raw (her sexual assault at age seven) and unblinkingly honest (her lingering hatred of a school bully), Msimang's memoir and first book recounts the intimate, inspiring, tumultuous journey of a woman piecing herself back together.--Terry Hong Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

IN 2005, the novelist Taiye Selasi published an essay in the now defunct LIP magazine defining a generation of young Africans whose roots spanned the world. "'Home' for this lot is many things: where their parents are from; where they go for vacation; where they went to school; where they see old friends; where they live (or live this year)," Selasi wrote. "Like so many African young people working and living in cities around the globe, they belong to no single geography, but feel at home in many." Selasi christened this cohort of her peers "Afropolitans," and in the wake of her essay their stories have proliferated. Several Afropolitan novelists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Dinaw Mengestu and NoViolet Bulawayo - have become near household names. Today, the market is saturated with work exploring ideas of belonging and unbelonging; placelessness is chic. All this makes "Always Another Country," a graceful memoir by Sisonke Msimang, a welcome novelty. Msimang, a South African writer and political analyst, charts an alternate course to the now familiar conclusion that home is not always a place on a map. Her story begins in exile. Her parents, members of the African National Congress, then fighting to overthrow South Africa's apartheid regime, have fled to Zambia, where they have three daughters. "We are raised on a diet of communist propaganda and schooled in radical Africanist discourse, in the shadows of our father's hope and our mother's practicality," Msimang writes. Her father is a soldier in the A.N.C.'s armed wing - its "illegal army" - a job that has taken him across the world, from Russia, for training, to Tanzania, where he helped establish a military base, and, finally, to Zambia, where he met and married Msimang's mother. As a result of their work, Msimang spent her childhood calling a different country - Zambia, Kenya, Canada, Ethiopia - home every few years. "My parents were freedom fighters," she writes. "So they cast our journeys around the world as part of a necessary sacrifice. Our suffering was noble." Msimang's parents believed in an exceptional South Africa, one whose future would be free of injustice. Their daughter learns not to see the world this way. In Canada, a boy in her grade-school class calls her an African monkey, and a group of white girls with whom she became close abruptly exclude her. These moments reveal racism's "sharp little teeth"; before long, she realizes she has been spoiled as a child, bred to believe that she and her sisters "weren't just children - we were representatives of ideals." Living abroad, "far away for the sake of freedom," her family was "no more special than anyone else." If Canada taught Msimang the insidiousness of racism, Kenya exposed her to class politics. In a moving scene, she confronts a boy who steals her bike. After a mob - which she compares to the chorus of a Greek tragedy - brings the perpetrator to her feet, the boy issues a careless apology. "He doesn't mean it," she writes. "He stares at me with naked rage. He is sorry that I am rich and he is poor and he is not moved by my tears or my vulnerability." The incident becomes a funny story her family likes to tell. But it's also discomforting evidence of economic inequality, a subject her parents seem hardly to discuss. Reflecting on the boy's behavior, Msimang concedes that she could "never say that he made no apologies for himself or that he blamed me for being a certain kind of girl and occupying the world with a certain kind of obliviousness that was not acceptable." There is no room for the complicated truth in the narrative their world imposes on them: The boy is a thief and she his victim. At Macalester College, in St. Paul, Msimang undergoes a political awakening. She joins a black women's poetry troupe that performs work by women. But the group's political inspirations - "the words that animate our conversations, and that push us to act in the real world" - are men. She begins to see her parents "not as revolutionary heroes, but as slightly naive." Msimang's biting humor gives this section a glorious punch. There is a sense that the more she distances herself from her parents, the more her own voice can emerge. In coming-of-age stories, the journey to self-discovery almost always involves leaving home. But for children for whom "home" means the family unit rather than a particular location, leaving is not necessarily marked by physical movement. Like most daughters of African parents (this reviewer included), Msimang was taught to be brave but never defiant, particularly when it comes to family. She eventually moves to South Africa - the object of her parents' dreams and life's work. She marries, becomes a mother and, eventually, a journalist. She, too, is invested in her country's future, but on her own terms. "South Africa doesn't need heroes," she writes. "She needs the best type of friends - those who bear witness." LOVIA GYARKYE is on staff at the Book Review.