cover image A Coastline Is an Immeasurable Thing: A Memoir Across Three Continents

A Coastline Is an Immeasurable Thing: A Memoir Across Three Continents

Mary-Alice Daniel. Ecco, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-0629-6004-7

In her incandescent debut, Nigerian poet Daniel recounts her life on three continents, surrounded by stories that made up the fabric of her African upbringing. Daniel was born in Maiduguri, Nigeria—the birthplace of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram— and her parents, members of the Longuda and Fulani tribes, taught at the city’s university until the destabilized Nigerian dollar dried up their salaries. The family’s nomadlike existence began when they uprooted to Reading, England, in 1988, where her parents entered doctoral programs. Painting a lyrical study in contrasts—“England looked blanched, like all color had been boiled out... it lacked the characteristic angry, red Nigerian dust that gets into everything”—Daniel recounts how her mother, Saratu, centered West African traditions in food, clothing, and social interactions. When a new academic position for her father took them to Nashville, Tenn., her parents’ Christian evangelicalism created a sense of “apocalyptic paranoia” in their home (secular TV shows, books, and other pastimes were prohibited). Generous doses of Nigerian history are stitched between personal anecdotes as Daniel addresses racism in the U.S. and the long arc of finding her identity as an “American-African”: “I don’t think I believe in God; I don’t know about goddesses. I am grown; on my own.” This is a gem. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency. (Nov.)