Letters from Togo

Letters from Togo

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2010
203 pages, 1 map, 6 x 9 inches
Paper: 
$26.00
0877453403
9780877453406
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"Letters from Togo is more than a travel book. From the window of her flat, Blake looks out on bare-breasted women—voodoo novices—gathering palm fronds, while behind her Mahouna brushes her kitchen floor. It is the tension between these two worlds that Blake so painfully and beautifully relates—the African without, the Anglo-American within. We travel with Blake to West Africa. But we also travel to the uncomfortable core of what it means to be an outsider, a yovo, in a land that is not our own."—Dea Birkett

Blake's adventurous essays—her Letters from Togo—are based on the letters she wrote to her friends from Lomé, the West African capital where she spent a Fulbright year teaching American literature from 1983 to 1984. As Blake begins the process of making sense out of a vibrant, seeming anarchy, we are pulled along with her into the heart of Togo—a tiny dry strip of a country no one can even find on a map.

With her delightful prose and insight for detail Blake introduces us to Mahouna, her housekeeper, who runs a cold drink business from his refrigerator in a country where electricity is unreliable; to American Lee Ann and her Togolese family, who works at the American school to earn the fees for a private education for her children; and to the suave René, wearing silk shirts and a most seductive smile, who teeters on the edge of the Togolese and expatriate worlds.

Since Lomé is both an overgrown village and a cosmopolitan city, Blake's exhilarating, often humorous experiences range from buying a car to attending a traditional tom-tom funeral, from visiting people who hunt with bows and arrows to enduring faculty meetings, from negotiating the politics of buying produce to lecturing on Afro-American literature at the English Club. Together, her enlivening letters trace the pattern of adjusting to a foreign environment and probe the connections between Africa and this curious, energetic American. Not "out of Africa" but within it, they take advantage of time and perspective to penetrate the universal experience of being a stranger in a strange land.

Table of contents: 

Acknowledgments
Foreword by Albert E. Stone
Preface

1983:
Thursday, September 1 – Arrival
Friday, September 2 – Clear Light of Day
Friday, September 9 – Buying a Car
Monday, September 12 – Tam-tam Funeral
Friday, September 16 – Martin/Mahouna
Sunday, September 18 – Expats
Tuesday, September 20 – Home Improvement
Friday, September 23 – Chez Mahouna
Sunday, September 25 – Village Visit
Monday, September 26 – Bypass Plumbing
Friday, September 30 – Labor History Seminar
Friday, September 30 – On the Town
Sunday, October 2 – The Plateau
Friday, October 14 – Ecole des Lettres
Sunday, October 16 – Family Friend
Friday, October 21 – First Week of School
Sunday, October 23 – Housewarming
Sunday, October 30 – Second Week of School
Tuesday, November 8 – Junior Year Abroad
Tuesday, November 15 – Literature without Books
Sunday, November 20 – Coffee-Cocoa Triangle
Wednesday, November 23 – Neighbors
Saturday, November 26 – “Avoir le Temps”
Thursday, December 1 – Birthday
Sunday, December 4 – New Clothes
Thursday, December 8 – Information
Tuesday, December 13 – Integrated Development
Sunday, December 18 – 1984
Friday, December 23 – Roommates
Monday, December 26 – Christmas

1984:
Sunday, January 1 – Tourists in Benin
Sunday, January 8 – “A & P”
Saturday, January 14 – Le Treize Janvier
Saturday, January 28 – Maîtrise
Sunday, February 12 – The Doorbell
Sunday, February 19 – Ecole Normale
Wednesday, February 22 – Véronique
Friday, February 24 – Breakdowns
Sunday, March 4 – Economics
Sunday, March 11 – Hot Season
Sunday, March 25 – Culture Crossing
Saturday, April 7 – The Route d’ Atakpamé
Monday, April 16 – To the North
Tuesday, May 15 – The Color Purple
Monday, June 11 – Borders
Saturday, June 16 – The Airport
Monday, June 18 – A Day on the Ghana Border
Monday, June 25 – Accra and Home

Postscript, 1991

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