A stunning debut novel, from Rhodes Scholar and winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Tope Folarin about a Nigerian family living in Utah and their uncomfortable assimilation to American life.
Living in small-town Utah has always been an uneasy fit for Tunde Akinola’s family, especially for his Nigeria-born parents. Though Tunde speaks English with a Midwestern accent, he can’t escape the children who rub his skin and ask why the black won’t come off. As he struggles to fit in and find his place in the world, he finds little solace from his parents who are grappling with their own issues.
Tunde’s father, ever the optimist, works tirelessly chasing his American dream while his wife, lonely in Utah without family and friends, sinks deeper into schizophrenia. Then one otherwise-ordinary morning, Tunde’s mother wakes him with a hug, bundles him and his baby brother into the car, and takes them away from the only home they’ve ever known.
But running away doesn’t bring her, or her children, any relief from the demons that plague her; once Tunde’s father tracks them down, she flees to Nigeria, and Tunde never feels at home again. He spends the rest of his childhood and young adulthood searching for connection—to the wary stepmother and stepbrothers he gains when his father remarries; to the Utah residents who mock his father’s accent; to evangelical religion; to his Texas middle school’s crowd of African-Americans; to the fraternity brothers of his historically black college. In so doing, he discovers something that sends him on a journey away from everything he has known.
Sweeping, stirring, and perspective-shifting, A Particular Kind of Black Man is a beautiful and poignant exploration of the meaning of memory, manhood, home, and identity as seen through the eyes of a first-generation Nigerian-American.
Tope Folarin is a Nigerian-American writer based in Washington, DC. He won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2013 and was shortlisted once again in 2016. He was also recently named to the Africa39 list of the most promising African writers under 39. He was educated at Morehouse College and the University of Oxford, where he earned two Masters degrees as a Rhodes Scholar. He is the author of A Particular Kind of Black Man.
“A young man grows up distanced from family, country and his beloved mother; so begins the attrition of his sense of self. In this emotionally evocative and immensely moving story, Tope Folarin shows how the need to belong lives first in the heart. By combining the immigrant’s tale with a coming-of-age story Folarin has brought new power to both narratives. He is a writer of talent and great promise.”—Aminatta Forna, author of The Devil That Danced on the Water and Ancestor Stones
“A Particular Kind of Black Man is an audacious debut, a book that is many things at once: a profound immigration narrative, a moving coming of age story, and an appraisal and defense of the novel as an essential 21st-century art form. The structure—fluid, slippery, a suspended chord in search of resolution--echoes the journey of the protagonist, and, indeed, of America. In these brilliant, searing, heartbreaking and hopeful pages, Tope Folarin has given us a novel that many of us will revisit for years to come. —Jeffery Renard Allen, author of the novels Song of the Shank and Rails Under My Back