A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid
Frank B. Wilderson, IIIPages: 500
Release Date: 2008-08-01
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Winner of the 2008 American Book Award/Before Columbus Foundation
In 1995, a South African journalist informed Frank Wilderson, one of only two Black American members of the African National Congress (ANC), that President Nelson Mandela considered him “a threat to national security.” Wilderson was asked to comment. Incognegro is that “comment.” It is also his response to a question posed five years later by a student in a California university classroom: “How come you came back?”
Although Wilderson recollects his turbulent life in South Africa during the furious last gasps of apartheid, Incognegro is a quintessentially American story. Wilderson taught at Johannesburg and Soweto universities by day. By night, he helped the ANC coordinate clandestine propaganda, launch psychological warfare, and more. In this mesmerizing memoir, Wilderson’s lyrical prose flows from childhood episodes in the white Minneapolis enclave “integrated” by his family to a rebellious adolescence at the student barricades in Berkeley and under tutelage of the Black Panther Party; from unspeakable dilemmas in the red dust and ruin of South Africa to political battles raging quietly on US campuses and in his intimate life. Readers will find themselves suddenly overtaken by the subtle but resolute force of Wilderson’s biting wit, rare vulnerability, and insistence on bearing witness to history no matter the cost.
A literary tour de force sure to spark fierce debate in both America and South Africa, Incognegro retells a story most Americans assume we already know, with a sometimes awful, but ultimately essential clarity about global politics and our own lives.
Frank B. Wilderson, III is the award-winning author of Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of US Antagonisms (Duke University Press, forthcoming) and the director of Reparations…Now (in-progress).
Advance Praise"Wilderson [will] become a major American writer. Mark my word."
-Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo
"[G]ripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid.... Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis.... Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics ... a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days."
-Publishers Weekly [starred review]
"Into the wake of great literature fighting human bondage, Frank Wilderson pours Incognegro. And, like the offerings of Ellison, Fanon, Baldwin and Morrison, this revolutionary love story must be widely read, generously shared, and relentlessly engaged."
-Joy James, author of SRead more