A Bit of Difference

Sefi Atta, Author
Sefi Atta. Interlink, $25 (228p) ISBN 978-1-56656-892-0
Reviewed on: 06/04/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Open Ebook - 230 pages - 978-1-74219-833-0
Paperback - 221 pages - 978-1-56656-966-8
Ebook - 389 pages - 978-1-62371-021-7
Hardcover - 303 pages - 978-0-00-753103-5
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-00-753610-8
Hardcover - 221 pages - 978-1-876756-99-4
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Atta, winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature for Everything Good Will Come (2006), delivers on the promise of her well-received early work with this breakout which is at once an American successor to classic Nigerian literature and a commentary on how the English-speaking world reads Africa. Lagos born Deola Bello enjoys her job in the London office of an international charity organization, but sees how her home country is sold abroad and is all too aware of the Western attitudes that cling to her African friends, like the intellectual Bandele and the born-again Subu, while shaping the perception of her English schoolfellows and American colleagues. But unlike Bandele, Deola still considers herself Nigerian, and a trip home to visit her widowed mother and testy, troubled siblings—all coping with the legacy of their autocratic father—provides Atta with the opportunity to examine the realities of modern African life, from HIV to the upwardly-mobile Diaspora. Like Teju Cole’s Open City, Deola’s story is low on drama but rich in life, though Atta’s third-person voice makes less for a portrait of a mind in transit than a life caught in freeze-frame, pinned between two continents and radiating pathos. Wholly believable, especially in its nuanced approach to racial identity, the story feels extremely modern while excelling at the novelist’s traditional task: finding the common reality between strangers and rendering alien circumstances familiar. (Sept.)
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