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Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in…
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Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

by Noo Saro-Wiwa

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Oh, this was a fantastic book. I liked the conversational tone and the stream-of-consciousness way that Saro-Wiwa worked through all the deeper themes of her return to Nigeria. And the breadth of issues covered is dizzying. Not only is this a travel narrative that gives a pretty broad look into the various features of Nigeria, it covers that Nigeria is a hugely diverse country where hundreds of ethnicities/tribes/backgrounds are subsumed into "Nigerian". So for example, you can read Chimamanda Adichie on Biafra and see an Igbo perspective whereas Saro-Wiwa is an Ogoni and her take on Biafra is not so positive. Yet both are Nigerian writers and have a strong Nigerian identity, even with their reservations about aspects of Nigeria.

This book reminded me of a book I just finished about Syria and how similar Syria is to Nigeria in that you have this colonial-drawn nation that embraced the national identity despite having tribal allegiances and how various corruption and violence by leaders sours that identity and unity. There's also something similar in how corruption simply poisons civil society, too.

You also have the personal narrative of a diasporic woman whose father was murdered in the country she's trying to reconnect with and how complicated THAT legacy is. Saro-Wiwa didn't go into her life in London at all, but the tension between enjoying many aspects of Nigerian life vs. just wanting the g-d air conditioning and running water to work 24/7 rings very true and real.

So yes, I liked this immensely and found it hard to put down. ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
Noo Saro-Wiwa is the daughter of human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was murdered by the Nigerian government as part of their efforts to keep Shell Oil Company happy. Sara-Wiwa grew up in Britain, but spent her summers in Nigeria until her father's burial, at which point she never returned. Now, decades later, she returns to travel all over the enormous (much larger than Texas) and diverse country. Looking for Transwonderland is her account of her travels.

Saro-Wiwa is the ideal traveling companion for Nigeria. She is both native and stranger, intimately familiar with the country's history and culture, while also standing slightly outside of it, which allows her to explain and describe Nigeria in a way that was clear and fascinating to this non-Nigerian, while able to travel and explore with the freedom of someone born in that country.

And Nigeria is more than worthy of a guided tour. It's a diverse place, with artificially created borders containing three major and over 300 minor people groups. The country's size means it's land encompasses both desert and rainforest. Sara-Wiwa travels all over Nigeria, hunting down wildlife refuges, historically significant landmarks and art while talking to people from all walks of life about life in Nigeria. Sara-Wiwa is an opinionated and humorous guide and I would love to accompany her through any other county she chooses to write about. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Aug 30, 2017 |
When many Westerners consider Nigeria and its people, their first thoughts are likely to be the ubiquitous e-mail and telephone scams that promise the recipients fabulous sums of money if the senders are provided with advance fees or bank account numbers so that they can transfer money into the recipients' accounts. Others think of it as a nation of seemingly unlimited natural resources, particularly oil, whose wealth has been largely stolen by its corrupt leaders and Western companies and governments, leaving its citizens largely impoverished and uneducated. Those who have met and work with Nigerians who live abroad may consider them to be arrogant, bombastic, and quick to argue, particularly in comparison to Africans from other countries.

Noo Saro-Wiwa, the author of this book, is the daughter of the author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic minority within the Niger Delta of southern Nigeria. He was the president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, a nonviolent organization which criticized the Nigerian government and Shell Oil for the degradation in Ogoniland that resulted from the harvesting of oil. He and eight other activists were tried and convicted by a military tribunal under President Sani Abacha of the brutal murders of Ogoni chiefs, even though the trial was widely condemned as being a sham, and all nine members of the Ogoni Nine were hanged in 1995.

Noo was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, but lived much of her life outside of her native country, particularly in London, where she and her siblings were educated while her father remained in her homeland. She, her mother and siblings returned in 2000, for her father's official burial, and in 2005, for a proper family burial after permission to do was finally granted by a democratically elected Nigerian government, but after his death she avoided returning there until she decided to return and write a book about her country and its people, and come to terms with her father's legacy.

Saro-Wiwa spent four months in Nigeria, beginning with a visit to Lagos, the nation's overcrowded and largely lawless capital, which she unforgettably describes as a woman with a "Gucci jacket and a cheap hair weave, with a mobile phone in one hand, a second set in her back pocket, and the mother of all scowls on her face. She would usher you impatiently through her front door at an extortionate price before smacking you to the floor for taking too long about it. 'This,' she would growl while searching your back pockets for more cash, 'is Lagos.'"

Her travels extend throughout the southern Christian dominated portion of the country and its mostly Muslim north, as she meets family members, old friends, guides, and random strangers along the way. She is a fearless traveler, who takes risks that made this reader occasionally question her sanity and apparent lack of common sense, but she managed to avoid dangerous situations. Her descriptions of the cities and regions she visited were rich and evocative, so much so that I found myself eager to visit a country that I had absolutely no desire to go to prior to reading the book. Her journey most notably includes a visit to Port Harcourt, where one of her brothers has taken up residence in the family home, and Ogoniland, where her paternal relatives live, which allowed her to reconnect with them and regain her sense of belonging in Nigeria. At the end of her journey she made her peace with the country that murdered her father, and although she spent most of her life in the West she felt a strong pull to return there permanently despite the country's numerous problems and challenges.

"Looking for Transwonderland" was a well written book that provides a grim and unblinking yet hopeful look at one of Africa's most prominent countries, which is deserving of the numerous accolades and awards it received after its publication in 2012. ( )
7 vote kidzdoc | Jul 4, 2017 |
So engaging, so compelling...you start the book thinking it is an account of a place you will never visit and you finish by imagining possible itineraries. A sort of pilgrimage to her home country, the author recounts a trip to the four corners of a broken country whose people still manage to carry on, even if they fail to keep calm while doing so. ( )
  jacoombs | Dec 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Ms. Saro-Wiwa writes perceptively about Africa's most populous country [Nigeria]. . . . For a country rich in both human and natural resources--one that has hugely underperformed its potential since independence from Britain in 1960--Nigeria in Ms. Saro-Wiwa's account seems diffident, even haughty in its attitudes toward the rest of Africa and indeed the world.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Howard French (Oct 16, 2012)
 
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Being Nigerian can be the most embarrassing of burdens. We're constantly wincing at the sight of some of our compatriots, who have committed themselves to presenting us as a nation of ruffians.
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Noo Saro-Wiwa was brought up in England, but every summer she was dragged back to Nigeria - a country she viewed as an annoying parallel universe where she had to relinquish all her creature comforts and sense of individuality. Then her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was murdered there, and she didn't return for 10 years. Recently, she decided to rediscover and come to terms with the country her father loved. She travelled from the exuberant chaos of Lagos to the calm beauty of the eastern mountains; from the eccentricity of a Nigerian dog show to the empty Transwonderland Amusement Park - Nigeria's decrepit and deserted answer to Disneyland. She explored Nigerian christianity, delved into its history of slavery, examined the corrupting effect of oil, investigated Nollywood. She found the country as exasperating as ever, and frequently despaired at the corruption and inefficiency she encountered. But she also discovered that it was far more beautiful and varied than she had ever imagined, and was seduced by its thick tropical rainforest and ancient palaces and monuments. Most engagingly of all she introduces us to the people she meets, and gives us hilarious insights into the Nigerian character, its passion, wit and ingenuity.--… (more)

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