Cardyn Brooks reviews A Stranger’s Pose by Emmanuel Iduma
Cassava Republic Press November 20, 2018
non-fiction travelogue memoir with photographs
“I was making this trip because I chose to
write a book about the Senegal River and
its tributaries, and the lives of the people
who lived along its banks.” [pg. 121]
It might seem odd to start a discussion of A Stranger’s Pose by quoting a passage that’s located near the center of this travelogue as personal memoir, but doing so echoes the simultaneous awareness of being present in this present moment while also examining past moments and considering future possibilities. Emmanuel Iduma writes about the cultural flow between privilege, access to resources, and agency within the context of the geopolitical axis of the African continent, the European Union, and the United States. The trajectory and speed of this flow has been, and continues to be, shaped by colonial imperialist mechanisms that have morphed as they endure. With a sense of lyrical whimsy, seventy-seven numbered entries assembled from notes about dreams, encounters with other artists, letters to family and friends, poems, and contemplative essays caption black and white photos that confront readers in their stark contrasts of supple movement against desolate terrain and sharp geometric forms.
Moving from the middle of A Stranger’s Pose back to the beginning of it in Teju Cole’s foreword, readers are asked to “Imagine a song… of care for those things that are seen by all but noted only by a stranger.” Further suggested in the foreword, music as a universal language of exploration that documents the generational evolution represented by Miles Davis to Ahmad Jamal and Ben Webster also provides a score for our shared human drama.
If “all rivers are multilingual,” [pg. 13] then so are these questions that the primary author’s father asks his son and other riders on a commuter van: “How does this thing you do benefit humanity? How do you make money from it? How does it give God glory?” [pg. 52]
In most of the images in which the primary author is the subject his gaze is isolated by the arrangement of his garments and directed at the observer in solemn challenge. To hone the focus of his purpose? To be seen with fresh eyes? Or maybe he seeks to be recognized by others and by himself.
Emmanuel Iduma’s journey is a 21st-century incarnation of a privileged young man’s continental tour set in Africa rather than in Europe, although European influences abound. Plot points mapped on pages 102 – 103 chart the author’s nomadic course like a constellation of waves across land as he observes and engages his way from Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Nigeria, and other countries. When he states on page 165 that “A life of being away from home only to return tainted by wanderlust, unable to stay,” it reads as a melancholy confession, which leads to this conclusion on page 196, “To leave is to die a little.”
A Stranger’s Pose works various angles of posing in physical posture, pretense or impersonation, assumed attitudes intended to impress others, asking questions, and embodying challenges. Its subtleties and depths share a narrative artistry with All God’s Children Need Walking Shoes by Maya Angelou and The Same River Twice by Alice Walker. It crisscrosses the African continent in paths reminiscent of Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang.
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Cardyn Brooks is a reading fiend, compulsive writer, chocoholic, and swim enthusiast. She writes upbeat, diversity-is-mainstream contemporary erotic fiction for and about grown-ups in love. Her previous titles include Seducing the Burks: Five Erotic Tales and Dodging Eros, Through Past, Present and Pleasure. In spring 2018, When She’s on Top, a collection of four novellas about powerful women and the men who are strong enough to love them, written as her edgier persona of C. X Brooks, will be available in print and e-formats from. She earned her B.A. in English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A.
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