Rebuilt Identity: In Progress

I’ve been reading this book by Chris Abani. Abani is a Nigerian-American writer. His mother was very English. But His father, Nigerian, so where is the American in him? Well–he lives in the United States. And he has done for years. He is American now.

The book I’m reading is called The Secret History of Las Vegas. It’s brilliantly written, though one of the creepier books I’ve ever picked up. It’s a novel about a man who does studies on psychopathy. A scary topic, to say the least.

Chris Abani has a TED Talk he did some years ago. 2008, actually. It is about humanity. But it’s also about how Africa is constantly in a state of rebuilding itself and it’s identity. in this TED Talk for instance, he explained that, until the genocide in Rwanda, the word for rape and marriage were actually the same. There may have been a difference in the context the word was used that changed it’s meaning, but this reflects a culture that accepted rape on a scale not seen for many hundred years in the western world. However, after the genocide, a word was created for this act in Rwanda. And this thing was rebuilt not as marriage, but as a crime and atrocity, and it was done so by women.

Abani speaks of apartheid a lot. And to think partied only ended in 1991, and even then, all the laws were only abolished in 1994. And it hasn’t been so long. What identity does South Africa have? What must it rebuild for it’s citizens and those who call it home. Apartheid was an era that rivals the monstrosities of the Third Reich, yet most people ignore it, or do not know about it. It feels like ancient history for many.

But in South Africa, in Africa at large, the repercussions of apartheid are still being felt. It is still a dangerous country, a dangerous continent, rife with civil unrest.

Abani brings these issues to his novels. He reminds readers that the struggles of Africa are the same struggles of the western and eastern worlds. They are human rights. They are constantly being rebuilt.

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