Cover image for We won't budge : a malaria memoir
We won't budge : a malaria memoir
Diawara, Manthia, 1953-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Civitas Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvi, 271 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.M33 D53 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this deeply personal and unflinchingly honest exploration of what it means to be African, Manthia Diawara recounts the bittersweet experience of an expatriate who no longer lives life as an "African" yet is the object of others' fantasies and fears about people of the dark continent. Comparing his fortunes in America with those of his cousins in Paris, Diawara assesses the way tradition and community give meaning to their lives, despite the ugliness of modern French attitudes toward Africans. At the same time, he confronts the trauma experienced by Africans in America such as Amadou Diallo. Diawara's experience of life as an African and an African American yields fresh and stunning insights about race, ethnic identity, immigration, and assimilation in the modern globalized world.This important and original book will shatter many cherished notions about what it means to experience race as an African in the world today. Beautifully written and shrewdly argued, its unsentimental view of African culture and traditions, as well as its debunking of the idealized promise of an unracialized life abroad, is certain to ignite debate.

Author Notes

Manthia Diawara holds the title of University Professor at New York University

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Born in Mali, one of Africa's poorest countries, Diawara left for Paris in the 1960s, where he worked as a dishwasher to support his studies. In 1974, he came to the U.S., and he's now a professor of literature and film in New York. His provocative, highly readable memoir draws on his personal journeys, as well as those of friends and relatives in Africa, Europe, and the U. S., to open up the contemporary arguments about identity and politics. In the first chapter, he's visiting his Mali hometown, and he can't wait to leave. In New York, he misses "home." On sabbatical in Paris, he's furious at the racism that makes him a marginalized exotic, even as he separates himself from the tradition that includes polygamy and female circumcision. Far from self-importance and didacticism, he keeps switching sides to reveal the good and bad of assimilation versus cultural roots. Like Ariel Dorfman and other fine immigrant writers, Diawara shows that loss is necessary and that you can't go home again. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Now director of the Africana Studies program at New York University, Malian native Diawara recounts his journey from rock and roll-struck adolescent to Parisian intellectual manque, and from D.C. dishwasher to New York teacher, in sharply wrought anecdotes. Whether evoking the pleasures of family life, good company and good food or describing the anxieties of living under the gaze of the French police or the INS, Diawara's narrative hand is economical and sure. But, as he explains to a fellow Malian he meets in Paris, he is less interested in being a memoirist or historian than one "who like[s] to question things, people, and history." This questioning centers around the meaning of what it is to be African in an age of globalization, an uneasy immigrant to a First World increasingly nervous about those outside its gates. Diawara's account of what he sees as the systemic racisms of France and the United States derives its descriptive power not only from a residue of sometimes bitter personal experience but from an unwillingness to let that experience blind him to the ways in which that racism can be internalized on all sides and passed on. Addressing with an eloquence all the more effective for its broad tolerance the daily brutalities of Western officialdom and ignorance, he is equally concerned with the forces of conformity and superstition that can hobble his community's demand for justice and fair treatment. If Diawara offers no ultimate solutions, his passionate but balanced testimony and analysis suggest a framework for usefully seeking answers. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
I. Back to Bamakop. 1
II. We Won't Budgep. 25
III. Les Sans-Papiers: Menace to Societyp. 49
IV. Johnny Be Goodp. 75
V. Let the Good Times Rollp. 101
VI. La Bagatelle: The Four Hundred Blowsp. 123
VII. Dr. Feelgoodp. 137
VIII. My Cousin Bintoup. 157
IX. We Came Here with Our Teethp. 171
X. Portrait of the Writer by Himselfp. 201
XI. Me and Mrs. Jonesp. 225
XII. There Must Be Some Way Out of Herep. 251