A Stunning Debut Novel, From Rhodes Scholar And Winner Of The Caine Prize For African Writing, Tope Folarin About A Nigerian Family Living In Utah And Their Uncomfortable Assimilation To American Life Living In Small Town Utah Has Always Been An Uneasy Fit For Tunde Akinola S Family, Especially For His Nigeria Born Parents Though Tunde Speaks English With A Midwestern Accent, He Can T Escape The Children Who Rub His Skin And Ask Why The Black Won T Come Off As He Struggles To Fit In And Find His Place In The World, He Finds Little Solace From His Parents Who Are Grappling With Their Own IssuesTunde S Father, Ever The Optimist, Works Tirelessly Chasing His American Dream While His Wife, Lonely In Utah Without Family And Friends, Sinks Deeper Into Schizophrenia Then One Otherwise Ordinary Morning, Tunde S Mother Wakes Him With A Hug, Bundles Him And His Baby Brother Into The Car, And Takes Them Away From The Only Home They Ve Ever KnownBut Running Away Doesn T Bring Her, Or Her Children, Any Relief From The Demons That Plague Her Once Tunde S Father Tracks Them Down, She Flees To Nigeria, And Tunde Never Feels At Home Again He Spends The Rest Of His Childhood And Young Adulthood Searching For Connection To The Wary Stepmother And Stepbrothers He Gains When His Father Remarries To The Utah Residents Who Mock His Father S Accent To Evangelical Religion To His Texas Middle School S Crowd Of African Americans To The Fraternity Brothers Of His Historically Black College In So Doing, He Discovers Something That Sends Him On A Journey Away From Everything He Has KnownSweeping, Stirring, And Perspective Shifting, A Particular Kind Of Black Man Is A Beautiful And Poignant Exploration Of The Meaning Of Memory, Manhood, Home, And Identity As Seen Through The Eyes Of A First Generation Nigerian American I had no idea how to be blackThe few times I told my father how I felt he responded the same way he told me not to worry, that if I worked hard enough and became successful, people would want to be like me I took solace in his words for many years.Then I started eighth grade Tunde is a second generation Nigerian American boy, born in Utah, where the singularity of his blackness gives him no perspective whatsoever on how to be black in America His parents can t help him they belong in Utah even less than he does His mother returns to Nigeria without him His father struggles along from one job to the next, consistently underemployed and the object of prejudice and ridicule And the boy Tunde grows up.This is a remarkable Bildungsroman, full of quiet humanity The prose felt simple as I read it, but the story is actually told in a way that illuminates some very rich ideas about identity and memory The narrator is direct and clear eyed when describing the failures and flaws of his family There is a particular ness about the details in each small scene, where the title a particular kind of black man seems to acknowledge that Tunde is sum of all of the small details he has shared with us his identity is unique, no matter how many times the people in his life try to make him match their prejudices about him, or to make him meet their hopes for him This is a remarkable novel. When the very hard decision is made to move to America in search of a better life, it is the hope of immigrants that their children will benefit from such an uprooting by assimilating into the new environment Tunde s father made such a decision before he was even born, not realizing how wrong the decision to move to a small town in Utah would be for the native Nigerian and his increasingly fragile wife Tunde does not even realize how different he and his family are until he goes to kindergarten, as the family lived hermetically, so when other kids rubbed his skin raw trying to get the color out, he really didn t understand Thus began his life of search for identity, and increasingly, for memories of his past Tope Folarin, a Rhodes Scholar and writer, has deemed this to be a novel, but he has mined his own life s journey for inspiration From the departure of his Beatles loving mother, the struggles of his father to provide for the family, through the experience of trying to win the love of a homesick stepmother and her sons, this sensitive man with the soul of a poet shares a story that rings with heartbreak and hope and ultimate redemption. It wasn t just the striking cover that attracted me I ve always liked immigration stories Something about trading in one world for another, driven by pure ambitions, aspirations and desperations, hoping against all odds, striving to survive, to fit in, to prosper I mean, that makes for some great stories And this is one such story told by a young man who grew up in a Nigerian family in Utah of all places and as such Tunde becomes a person without a clearly defined character Driven by his father to become the eponymous person, the kind of black man accepted and appreciated by a largely white society and yet at odds with his Nigerian legacy, Tunde grows up a man torn and this duality invades even his very memory until at the urging of his girlfriend he finally completes a journey to sort of unify all the aspects of his person This was a compelling story I especially enjoyed the straightforward narrative of Tunde s childhood When it gets into adulthood, the author utilized some experimental storytelling, both conceptually and narratively, and it made for an interesting, but not equally compelling read Something about the stylistic change up made the book seem disjointed in a way Maybe it s because it s been written over such a long time or maybe because of its autobiographical nature Actually, the author s bio doesn t provide enough to speculate on the latter and one obviously mustn t think one Nigerian American experience is very much like another Like most kids, Tunde is thoroughly and mostly inadvertently mostly screwed over by his parents his mother fails to adjust to her new country and goes violently insane, his father s lack of any forethought or research lands then as the only black family for miles around time and time again as he hops from career to career, barely getting by So Tunde grows up with great many challenges and yet acquits himself admirably, the book ends with him well on his way to becoming a kind of black man he can be proud of Engaging, smart albeit slightly uneven story about race, memory and a complicated concept of self Recommended Thanks Netgalley. 3.5 Stars I ll admit this began as a page turner but, somewhere around the halfway mark when it became clear there was some confusion developing within the core of the main character which I won t go into detail, due to its importance I temporarily lost interest as it became difficult to know what was important Tunde painfully longs to understand who he is, and where he fits, in a world he s inherited only by virtue of birth His parents, Nigerian born, arrived in Utah with hopes of attaining the American dream of success and great fortune Tunde s father eventually comes to the realization that whatever dream he s assumed was his wasn t actually meant for him This realization leads to disillusionment for his wife which manifests itself as a darkness that breaks her psychologically and she decides to escape the disappointment, along with her children, and return home Tunde s father eventually finds his wife and children holed up at a women s shelter However, once it becomes clear his wife is no longer fit to raise their children, due to the mental issues exacerbated by her overall sadness, he brings the boys home His wife, too emotionally broken and physically tired to continue to live in a place where their Blackness is viewed as a negative, goes back to Nigeria, leaving Tunde and his younger brother alone with their father What follows from there is Tunde s attempt to understand how to live in a world where different women are left to fill the role his mother was unable to play In time, and with knowledge of how unforgiving America can be to Blackness no matter its origin , his father attempts to vicariously live the American dream through his sons pushing them towards education and assimilation Hoping the former will open the door, to the success he never had, while the latter will ensure they re allowed to remain Tope Folarin weaves a captivating story of one man s search for acceptance in a world where his Blackness is considered a a novelty, b a crime, or c an inconvenience Tunde is a complex character where each layer uncovered only leads to discussion.Tunde constantly feels he doesn t belong, no matter how hard he tries a feeling that phone conversations, with the Nigerian grandmother he s never met, only serves to complicate and since his father has seemingly abandoned the idea of fostering familial connections to Nigeria, in favor of encouraging his sons to focus on American success, Tunde s turmoil over this genealogical unmooring are palpable it s clear that much of the disconnect is about the lost relationship with his mother.It was painful to see him search for maternal connection in every woman he met Any woman who thought him worthy of than a passing glance While the relationship with his father was consistent, it was built upon Tunde s ability to be a particular kind of Black man , which only added to the deficiency he felt within himself.How can you be any kind of man when you re uncertain of the origins of that man How can you understand who you are if a whole part of yourself is left unseen and unheard i.e his mother s sudden painful exit By the end, Tunde begins to understand how important the answering of some of the lingering questions will be to his healing via the coaxing of a new love but the abruptness of that part of the journey, via an ending which felt, at best rushed left me unsatisfied to have traveled so far with him, only to see the journey end in such a frustrating manner, was what decreased the rating for me, personally.It s understood that a neat and tidy finish was not a probability because there was so much to sort out but there was too much left unresolved conversations not had, relationships left unresolved, etc Where exactly could he go from where Folarin chose to end it The void left by the sudden ending didn t highlight the uncertainty of life, if that was the author s intention, rather it made it clear Folarin was comfortable with the reader figuring it out than finding a way to do so himself this reader felt Tunde deserved better than whatever I could imagine Overall, a strong offering, and one I am certain will find it s way into the hearts of many but one which fell short for me due to the way the author chose to bring things to a close. The hallmark of this work is the creative manner in which Folarin tells the story He breaks the novel up into sections by switching Tunde s perspective The immediate 1st person as he experiences an abusive period in his youth to the directive 2nd person that is used to speak to his naive younger self And finally, the 3rd person when he finds himself removed emotionally from circumstances that are out of his control These shifts are not aggravating and they don t trip up the reader at all, but it feels like a natural representation of his evolution of growth.Each step in his education, each move around the United States gets Tunde closer to that turning point The final expression of who is supposed to be Is it the silent, yet malleable black man, the educated, strong, compassionate man, or the Nigerian American who is biding his time in America until he is able to go back home It may just be a combination of all three At what point will the demand for confusing code switching stop for this young man Overall, A Particular Kind of Black Man is a powerful reading experience that creates insight into the internal and external racial tensions of growing up as the son of African immigrants.4.5 out of 5 stars.For my full review all my reviews WHY DID THIS BOOK END Okay so I thought it a memoir 50% in although, the book clearly states novel on the front but when I tell you, it would TAKE A MOST VIVID IMAGINATION to take someone on a journey like thissssss there is simply no way that this isn t a memoir I enjoyed every moment of this book there, I will just call it a book ok Let me just say that the way he describes things, I am taken back to Homegoing both authors have a wonderful way with words and analogies that I smile and fawn over My favorite part of the novel is when he just writes his College love interest s name over and over and over and over I literally smiled at that moment and simply took it all in What poetry There were glimmering parts to this book like when he speaks about hearing Lauryn Hill for the first time and simply coming undone SAME for me with Mariah Carey I mean, I became UNGLUED honey I just loved this novel and all the references that I could catch I almost see a parallel between it and Invisible Man x Ellison just in the way the main character carries on and perhaps that is just me and well, this IS MY review Overall, a beautiful book that I did not want to end It s in my tops too I m on a roll y all Tope Folarin s debut novel introduces us to Tunde, a thoughtful and thought provoking narrator recalling the story of his life and the search for his identity even as these goals are distorted by his perhaps faulty memory and his own troubled psyche The prose reads like butter, a smooth, pleasant, satisfying experience from first page to last The story is reflective without sentiment, and intelligent without succumbing to the academic All in all, this is a beautiful book, and I hope it finds wide readerships when it s officially released in August. Thank you simon and netgalley for the digital galley in exchange for my honest review, Before I re read the synopsis I thought this story was the author s memoir It isn t I m sure a good amount of information in this book was inspired by SOMEONE S real life coming of age tale The details were so specific and the events so raw in Mr Folarin s book that the reader cannot discern the shift between fiction and nonfiction That s the work of an amazing author, in my opinion The book follows a young Nigerian American child named Tunde as he came of age first in Utah with his family and then in other cities in the US such as Dallas and Atlanta In THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X, Malcolm ended up at Mecca which was a major turning point in his life On the home videos that were played at Nipsey Hussle s funeral, it showed him going back to Eritrea as a teen Tunde ends up making the same type of pilgrimage during his college years to his native Nigeria towards the end of this book and it really brings the story to a whole I was born in the United States and I can not directly relate to the experience a young child, like Tunde, from a whole different continent, goes through when traveling from Africa to America for opportunity The author highlighted these very events amongst Tunde s parents during this time and was so careful to present the reader with the honest truth no matter how uncomfortable it might make the reader. Reads like a memoir but it s not A Particular Kind of Black Man by Tope Folarin is a coming of age story that follows Tunde Akinola and his family who migrate from Nigeria to United States in the 80 s The eldest of two, Tunde lives with his family in a small town in Northern Utah His father struggles to hold down a job and his mother soon has a mental break She physically abuses Tunde and on several occasion attempts suicide With no other family to help her Tunde s mother returns to Nigeria and his father returns with a new wife and her two sons As the story unfolds, throughout his child and adulthood Tunde continues to seek out a connection to his mother, his homeland of Nigeria and his current home, America I ll be honest I didn t read the synopsis, I went in the book based on the title cover and I wasn t disappointed I am a child of immigrants, so I know first hand what s it like to live in an area where your kinky hair, brown skin and accent aren t excepted from the black or white side The first half of the book will pull you in, but as you get towards the middle end it fizzles out a bit For a debut Folarin did an amazing job, I honestly thought this was a memoir Thank you, Simon Schuster, for gifting a copy in exchange for my honest review.4 out of 5 stars. No one fits precisely into a cubby marked this, that or the other No one So why do we, much like hermit crabs, try to squeeze into one shell after another to see which one fits, to find the one in which we feel at home We all do it, but for young Tunde Akinola there are so many shells, so many identities to try and nothing feels like home In this coming of age novel, Tunde grows to be a particular kind of black man , a first generation African American, born in the U.S to Nigerian parents But what is that Tunde begins school in Utah where he looks around and sees..no one like himself Utah is mostly white and Mormon What, then, is he His mother develops mental illness and returns to Nigeria, leaving Tunde and his brother with their father, hard working, deeply religious and now a single parent Enter a Nigerian born step mother and her two Nigerian born sons, a family blended in name only His Nigerian grandmother, a voice on the phone, is a constant and steadying influence, but he never meets her face to face.Small town Utah, next small town Texas, then Dallas, college in Atlanta and Maine, on to D.C Son, brother, Nigerian, black, white, juju, pop, Western, Southern, small towns, rural, hip hop, urban, New England, American, male How does a wide eyed child born into this kaleidoscope find his way, navigate, come to grips.when, often than not, exploration is squelched, and welcome is never guaranteed And how does one such child grow with assurance into the kind of man he is to become What will the essence of this man be Tope Folarin s book is not a how to It is simply the story of Tunde growing up, but it is revelatory, and, I believe, will leave you changed A recommended read.In bookstores everywhere on August 6 from Simon Schuster.Full Disclosure A review copy of this book was provided to me by Simon Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity All opinions expressed herein are my own.
- 272 pages
- A Particular Kind of Black Man
- Tope Folarin
- 16 September 2017 Tope Folarin