Review: ‘This Is Africa’ (A dream Chaser’s Odyssey) by Dashiel Douglas

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The movie ‘Out of Africa,’ which is based on the escapades of Karen Blixen  in Africa perhaps sends dreamy fantasies for any foreigner who would love to board the next flight to the skull shaped continent. It is in these fantasies that Dashiel Douglas drags his family halfway around the world to the home of his ancestors to find solace in fulfilling his childhood dream, which was inspired by the movie revolving around the life of Blixen. Lucky for him, his wife Pamela shared the same dream.  The two dreamers, together with their beloved kids would perch their tents of hope on South Africa-perhaps the country which shares its name with a direction-made so much sense to them because of her history, the Apartheid, Nelson Mandela and black consciousness propagated by Steve Biko events which sort of resonate well with the American Civil War, Martin Luther King Jnr et al.

In ‘This Is Africa’, Douglas dives into why he loves South Africa and Kenya, I wish you would see the sarcastic grin on my face as you read this, and why together with his family, are always wary of Ghana. Tell the Douglas family that you have a one way ticket to Ghana and you will be met by five pairs of horrified eyes and an uncontrollable gulp that would strike you to silence.

The first indicator that Ghana was a bee sting to the Douglas family occurred when their first born Ayana fell sick and the doctor insisted she take anti-malaria drugs even after testing negative for the disease. The horror descended into nightmares on Helm Street when their house was broken into sparking fear which forced the family breadwinner into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Douglas does excels in juxtaposing two moments that have defined him and his father as dream chasers. The story begins in Jamaica, where his father a young man embarks on a journey to escape the blistering poverty in his home country to greener pastures in the USA. This reads as if the father had known the dreams of the son because, when Douglas, otherwise referred to simply as Dash, had planned to move into Africa, he made the last chance to reconnect with his father. The father-son bond turned into tales of the struggle of the father to become an American citizen. As the son was burning with the burden of breaking the news of his desire to move to Africa, the father narrated his own dreams, fears and the helping hand of the universe.

Douglas would later appreciate every word of his father’s testimony in Africa as he struggled with his dream to make mother Africa love him. The book brings to heart nostalgic moments as the author walks you through his African experiences that are all too familiar and somehow escapes the mind when one is too familiar with them. It also delves into the fears everyone has in new lands and a state of helplessness when all the people you meet are strangers, unwilling or have no idea on how to help.

One of the most captivating things in the book is the uproarious moments Douglas spills out sending the reader into gales of laughter, a moment that mirrors one of those nights you sit to crack your ribs with words from the likes of Nigerian comedian Klint the Drunk or the baby faced South African wit Trevor Noah.

The author embellishes experiences coated with eccentricity with delightful fluidity in description. The rich humor works to soften the devastating ordeals and encounter makes you appreciate Africa and even love her more; even with its sloth government and airport officials, the corrupt and quirky officers and sometimes the devastating poverty garnished with political turmoil and the incessant terror attacks but you know how western media loves these kinds of ‘African’ stories.

The book is inspirational, lighthearted, religiously enriching and culturally demystifying with sections of untainted candidness and also sincere confessions and testimonies of the author. One could easily take it as a memoir, a motivational book or a comic piece of writing but whichever way, the book makes one wonderful read moment that would steal into your precious dreams.

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