Cover image for Jaguar : a story of Africans in America
Title:
Jaguar : a story of Africans in America
Author:
Stoller, Paul.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
213 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780226775272

9780226775289
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Issa Boureima is a young, hip African street vendor who sells knock-off designer bags and hats in an open-air market on 125th street in Harlem. His goal is to become a "Jaguar"--a West African term for a keen entrepreneur able to spot trends and turn a profit in any marketplace. This dynamic world, largely invisible to mainstream culture, is the backdrop of this timely novel.

Faced with economic hardship in Africa, Issa has left his home in Niger and his new wife, Khadija, to seek his fortune in America. Devout Muslims, the couple has entered into a "modern" marriage: Khadija is permitted to run her own business, and Issa has agreed not to take additional wives. Issa quickly adapts to his new surroundings, however, and soon attracts several girlfriends. Aided by a network of immigrants, he easily slips through gaps in the "system" and extends his stay in America indefinitely. Following a circuit of African-American cultural festivals across America, he marvels at African-Americans' attitudes toward Africa, and wonders if he'll ever return to Niger. Meanwhile, Khadija also struggles to make it--to become a "Jaguar"--as she combats loneliness, hostile in-laws, and a traditional, male-dominated society. The eventual success of her dry goods shop and her growing affection for a helpful Arab merchant make her wonder if she'll ever join Issa in America.

Drawing on his own decades of experience among Africans both in Niger and in New York, Paul Stoller offers enormous insight into the complexities of contemporary Africa. Alive with detail, Jaguar is a story of triumph and disappointment, of dislocation and longing, and of life lived in a world that no longer recognizes boundaries.


Summary

Issa Boureima is a young, hip African street vendor who sells knock-off designer bags and hats in an open-air market on 125th street in Harlem. His goal is to become a "Jaguar"--a West African term for a keen entrepreneur able to spot trends and turn a profit in any marketplace. This dynamic world, largely invisible to mainstream culture, is the backdrop of this timely novel.

Faced with economic hardship in Africa, Issa has left his home in Niger and his new wife, Khadija, to seek his fortune in America. Devout Muslims, the couple has entered into a "modern" marriage: Khadija is permitted to run her own business, and Issa has agreed not to take additional wives. Issa quickly adapts to his new surroundings, however, and soon attracts several girlfriends. Aided by a network of immigrants, he easily slips through gaps in the "system" and extends his stay in America indefinitely. Following a circuit of African-American cultural festivals across America, he marvels at African-Americans' attitudes toward Africa, and wonders if he'll ever return to Niger. Meanwhile, Khadija also struggles to make it--to become a "Jaguar"--as she combats loneliness, hostile in-laws, and a traditional, male-dominated society. The eventual success of her dry goods shop and her growing affection for a helpful Arab merchant make her wonder if she'll ever join Issa in America.

Drawing on his own decades of experience among Africans both in Niger and in New York, Paul Stoller offers enormous insight into the complexities of contemporary Africa. Alive with detail, Jaguar is a story of triumph and disappointment, of dislocation and longing, and of life lived in a world that no longer recognizes boundaries.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Drawing from decades of African experiences, Stoller, an anthropologist, delivers a complex novel that follows a pair of Nigerian newlyweds in the vicissitudes of life in Africa and in America. Issa Boureima leaves his new wife, Khadija, to travel to America in hopes of becoming a "jaguar,"ÄWest African slang for a savvy entrepreneur who can ride trends to turn a profit. Hawking Malcolm X caps and kente cloth bags, Issa moves between African-American street fairs and expos in Harlem and New Jersey. Along with culture shock, a newfound community of African expat "jaguars" and a fascination with multicultural Americans, Issa has a recurring problem. He and his wife, both Muslims, are committed to their "modern" marriage, that is, a union that allows Khadija to work in the marketplace in Africa and forbids Issa from taking on any more wives. While Khadija struggles and thrives with her dry goods shop, Issa acquires a stable of American lovers, feeling guilty and dishonest. Since Issa sends sizable sums of money back to his family, Khadija faces the growing resentment of his family over her business and independence. Stoller adds subtle power and depth to the story as he shows her increasing loneliness and despair when she learns that her husband plans to apply for political asylum in America. Her life changes when she meets a kind and sensitive Arab shopkeeper called Yusef. Stoller's uncomplicated prose scores by choosing poignancy and realism over sentimentality and melodrama. The book's resolution does not follow the predictable route, satisfying in its wise revelations about the difficulties of the expatriate life and the human need for love. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The setting of this novel shifts between Niger and America just as its narration shifts between Issa and Khadija Boureima. Though married, Issa and Khadija have lived apart for several years since Issa left his home in Niger for America. A street vendor hawking goods in Harlem, Issa seeks permanent residency in America. While caring for ungrateful in-laws, Khadija sets up a dry goods shop in Niger. Both struggle with loneliness, fidelity within the boundaries of their modern Muslim marriage, and the goal of becoming a "jaguar," a West African term for entrepreneurs seeking success in the marketplace. Ably applying his experiences as an anthropologist in West Africa with the Songhay people, Stoller offers rich detail about U.S. immigrant life and the ethnic, cultural, and class diversity of Niger; however, this debut does not elicit a strong emotional attachment to either character. Larger fiction collections should consider.--Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Drawing from decades of African experiences, Stoller, an anthropologist, delivers a complex novel that follows a pair of Nigerian newlyweds in the vicissitudes of life in Africa and in America. Issa Boureima leaves his new wife, Khadija, to travel to America in hopes of becoming a "jaguar,"ÄWest African slang for a savvy entrepreneur who can ride trends to turn a profit. Hawking Malcolm X caps and kente cloth bags, Issa moves between African-American street fairs and expos in Harlem and New Jersey. Along with culture shock, a newfound community of African expat "jaguars" and a fascination with multicultural Americans, Issa has a recurring problem. He and his wife, both Muslims, are committed to their "modern" marriage, that is, a union that allows Khadija to work in the marketplace in Africa and forbids Issa from taking on any more wives. While Khadija struggles and thrives with her dry goods shop, Issa acquires a stable of American lovers, feeling guilty and dishonest. Since Issa sends sizable sums of money back to his family, Khadija faces the growing resentment of his family over her business and independence. Stoller adds subtle power and depth to the story as he shows her increasing loneliness and despair when she learns that her husband plans to apply for political asylum in America. Her life changes when she meets a kind and sensitive Arab shopkeeper called Yusef. Stoller's uncomplicated prose scores by choosing poignancy and realism over sentimentality and melodrama. The book's resolution does not follow the predictable route, satisfying in its wise revelations about the difficulties of the expatriate life and the human need for love. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The setting of this novel shifts between Niger and America just as its narration shifts between Issa and Khadija Boureima. Though married, Issa and Khadija have lived apart for several years since Issa left his home in Niger for America. A street vendor hawking goods in Harlem, Issa seeks permanent residency in America. While caring for ungrateful in-laws, Khadija sets up a dry goods shop in Niger. Both struggle with loneliness, fidelity within the boundaries of their modern Muslim marriage, and the goal of becoming a "jaguar," a West African term for entrepreneurs seeking success in the marketplace. Ably applying his experiences as an anthropologist in West Africa with the Songhay people, Stoller offers rich detail about U.S. immigrant life and the ethnic, cultural, and class diversity of Niger; however, this debut does not elicit a strong emotional attachment to either character. Larger fiction collections should consider.--Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.