In some parts of the world, people throw parties when they get a visa to come to America. What awaits them in America is often not of great concern to them at that point. After all, they have consumed and internalized the sanitized one-sided stories of life in America from the media, from returnees, and most recently, from well-choreographed, and often, photoshopped images on social media. But the real America waits in ambush for every new arrival, ever ready to transform his or her life for better or for worse. This American Life Sef! explores the lives of African immigrants in America in Rudolf Okonkwo’s trademark wit, that will leave you smiling and thinking. Okonkwo spares the reader of any embellishment. With This American Life Sef, prospective immigrants do not have to blindly wait to get to the bridge before they arm themselves with the tools they need to cross it. Africans living abroad, especially in Europe and Asia, can relate to the stories in this new and expanded edition of Okonkwo’s classic.
“Fine pieces of creative non-fiction, the essays open with ‘I Will Marry When I Want’ and an observation: “Everywhere I look, I see children of Africa who have become ghosts of their former selves… The only gap between their American dream and their American nightmare is their American experience.” The essay focuses on the “perennial struggle” between the African man and woman in “America, their America.” Allusions to Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and JP Clark are not lost on the reader, as the author maps the battle of sexes which pits women against men that want to stick to outmoded ‘African’ gender dynamics. “Is America so full of only Okonkwos? What happened to the Njoroges?” the author asks.
“Achebe is the greatest influence on the book; and if we ever wondered what would happen if the hero of ‘Things Fall Apart’ had gone to America, the last piece in the collection (‘The Butcher, the Surgeon and I’) gives some pointers. The protagonist, Okonkwo, has become ‘Okons’ and is banned from speaking in proverbs in his own home. As the protagonist laments, “My father would have considered my situation one in which dying would have been a better option.”
‘This American Life Sef’ is a worthy addition to our growing canon of immigrant tales. It is sensitively written, insightful and engaging. It evokes sadness and inspires mirth, all on the same page. Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo has more than made up for his inattentiveness on that plane journey from long ago.”
“Its a good thing I never read the book before traveling out of Nigeria - it discusses the common issues on the journey of life faced by Nigerian immigrants , from the successful to the not so successful. But at the end of the day, one has to question what success in life really means. It is a book I would recommend to all of us (I wonder if I can even get my wife to read it?) but actually paints a terrible terrible picture of the fate that awaits those of us that are generally angrily said , by corrupt Nigerian government officials to be "in their comfortable abode" overseas.
“I will try and get my wife to read it, but she probably won't, so now i feel like Dr Okons, one of the characters in the book. The Buther , the Surgeon and I- a story in the book about a henpecked but successful "Nigerian" Surgeon Dr Okonkwo in an interacial marriage. Dr Okons is fairly happily married with successful children, a successful career, who still couldn't completely break himself free of love for some of his cultural identity and a nostalgic yearning for Nigeria. His family, children ( married ot Oyinbo), his Oyinbo wife don't share the same affinity for Nigeria and he can't go back to Nigeria even if he wanted to, having stayed in America for too long and having left too early in life.”
“Not a few will be offended by Rudolf Okonkwo’s dare to reveal a different picture, and one that is not in the least paradisiacal, from the one they have developed and like to retain of life in America…. On the surface, this book is deceitfully simple but underneath this apparent simplicity lies strong currents which are bound to knock the reader about. The culture shock contained therein is as severe as that in James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son.”
“Rudolf Okonkwo takes the notion of the “healthy immigrant” a notch higher in that most of the African immigrants in both the essays and the short stories are not just healthy but are also in the industry of health care provision. But this mental and bodily health only lasts for as long as the immigrant continues to be charmed by the beauty of his or her new environment and the functionality of its institutions. With time, the immigrant is reduced to an empty shell waiting to be shipped back home for burial by children that may never visit Africa again thereafter.”