By Tony D'Souza
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151011452, 288pp.
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Whiteman is an extraordinary debut novel about a maverick American relief worker deep in the West African bush. When his funding is cut off, Jack Diaz refuses to leave his post, a Muslim village in the Ivory Coast where Christians and Muslims are squaring off for war. Against a backdrop of bloody conflict and vibrant African life, Jack and his village guardian, Mamadou, learn that hate knows no color and that true heroism waits for us where we least expect it.
During lulls in the violence, Jack learns the cycles of Africa-of hunting in the rain forest, cultivating the yam, and navigating the nuances of the language; of witchcraft, storytelling, and chivalry. Despite the omnipresence of AIDS, he courts Djamilla, the stunning Peul girl; meets Mariam, his neighbor's wife, in the darkened forest when the moon is new; and desperately pursues Mazatou, the village flirt. Still, Jack spends many a night alone in his hut, longing for love in a place where his skin color excludes him.
Brimming with dangerous passions, ubiquitous genies, spirited proverbs, and the pressures of life in a time of war, Whiteman is a tale of desire, isolation, humor, action, and fear.
"[Whiteman] is a subtle but damning response to the assumption that Western aid is all-benevolent."
"The book has a very real, immediate, nonfiction feel to it."
"It''s the quality of vision that makes D''Souza''s novel notable and, for a first book, unusual."
"Quirky, funny, and seductive... capture[s] a shard of the host country in a way that NGO novels rarely do."