"I thought about this when I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my "tribal music" and was consequently disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove. What struck me was this: she had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa, a single story of catastrophe. In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.
I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called American Psycho and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. Now— now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation, but it would never have occurred to me to think that just because I had read a novel in which a character was a serial killer, that somehow he was representative of all Americans. Now, this is not because I am a better person than that student, but because of America’s cultural and economic power, I had many stories of America. I had read Tyler and Updike and Steinbeck and Gaitskill. I did not have a single story of America.”
The infractor, close-to-divine, nubile, tantric, thought within thought. Twisting, shaking, treacle grey, pounding, waking; in pipes the air depleting. Dizzying, smell-like, ammoniac treatise between The State of Things and the imposition. Glory, church bells, miasma, founding, coeliac grey, darkness, morning.
Imagine if every person who has been moved today by the events of ten years ago donated $5 to a famine relief fund, or to fund the distribution of drugs that we take for granted in the developed world.
“In Frankenstein, blood did not know where to go, random flushes and surges of energy to functionally inappropriate areas. He was given some lovely lines by the wandering impulse of nineteenth century lyrical science: I was created by spasms of very lively blue bodies. I see my soul crowning the black well of an electrically charged heaven. My body is a mess.”—Bob Perelman