AFRICA SPEAKS

Mark Goldblatt, Author
Mark Goldblatt, Author . Permanent $24 (176p) ISBN 978-1-57962-037-0
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This ambitious debut novel from a white news columnist struggles—only sometimes successfully, with Goldblatt's remarkable ear for idiom—to debunk the notion that only African-Americans can truly understand the experiences of African-Americans. The novel is essentially a monologue, in which Africa Ali, a young, volatile and confused black man, spews his adventures and opinions to a white sociologist. He visits weekly, although some weeks he sends his friends instead—also young, volatile, confused and black. These characters are used in an attempt to peel away the complexities of black rage and define the contradictory Africa Ali. With his friend Hercules, Africa beats and robs homosexuals; he pushes weed; he hates whites, particularly "bloodsucking Jews" and "faggots." He's a deadbeat dad who brags of his many female conquests and the virtues of philandering: "You got to treat a bitch like she's a bitch." Then he meets a beautiful Asian woman named Liang. Their peculiar dynamic—two disparate personalities from two oft-marginalized races in America—affords the novel some of its more profound passages. Unfortunately, the characters' laments are too often limited to dubious conspiracy theories and infatuations with a predictable cast—Tawana, O.J., Mumia, Jesse. As a result, Africa and the others rarely defy expectations, devolving into caricatures. Goldblatt ultimately does more to perpetuate longstanding stereotypes than to push readers to the brink of new understanding. (Feb.)

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