cover image America Made Me a Black Man: A Memoir

America Made Me a Black Man: A Memoir

Boyah J. Farah. HarperCollins, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-307335-7

An African immigrant reflects on American racism in this vitriolic memoir. Poet and essayist Farah fled from war-torn Somalia to Boston with his family at age 15 in the early 1990s, giddy with “love for America.” That gratitude soured because of microaggressions by a standoffish white college roommate and police macroaggressions, including an unjust speeding ticket and a wrongful accusation of creating a disturbance. Worst of all was what he perceived as workplace racial bias that led to his firing. Farah braids in reminiscences of Somalia’s violence—“the young man... was stoned to death before my very eyes”—painting it as less toxic than American bigotry, whose “legacy of poisoned black blood and screams of horror leaves its mark upon the crime-ridden conscience of white Americans” and will “carry them off either to destitution or to the madhouse.” Farah’s feverish prose can sound inflated in its denunciations of “racist ghouls” who “surround me, prowl around inside me,” and his narrative, which incorporates composite characters, compressed timelines, altered circumstances, and invented dialogue, doesn’t always ring true in its allegations of racism (“She has been raised by white monkeys,” he writes of a Black lawyer who advised him that his employment-discrimination claim was weak). The result is less a realistic account of racial divisions than a vivid portrait of the paranoia they inspire. (Sept.)