Monday, May 4, 2009

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria--Eve Brown-Waite (book review)

I'll never forget the day my friend Andy came over soon after he'd returned from two years spent in Ghana with the Peace Corps. He sheepishly told us that after grappling with an insatiable hunger all morning, he'd grabbed his mother's box of tapioca and cooked up a big pot of it for breakfast--the closest thing to the starchy fufu (made from cassava root, like tapioca is) he'd been eating three times daily for two years.

I think I said something like, "Foofoo? They actually call it that with a straight face? Foofoo?"

"Yeah, I'll make you some. Takes some getting used to, but it's good with stew."

He did make us fufu one night for dinner, along with a peanut stew. We scooped it out of a communal bowl with our hands (okay, I eventually bailed on the communal bowl and dished myself a plateful) and he told us stories about the Ghanaians and Peace Corps volunteers who had been his neighbors and friends. Afterwards he thanked us heartily for letting him share a little bit of Ghana, but it's been nearly twenty years since that night and I've never forgotten it. Thank you, Andy.

Reading First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria is a similar gift--like having a friend return from abroad and give you the real scoop on the wider world. Brown-Waite manages the tricky business of communicating homesickness and culture shock while respecting different approaches to life, without coming across as a whiner. The contrast between her reactions to things and her "Peace Corps poster boy" husband's reactions adds humor and perspective.

The Soundtrack: This was a tough one. I couldn't find anything on Playlist. Found a video of Philly Lutaaya, a Ugandan singer who did a lot towards publicizing the AIDS situation in Africa. Almost perfect (Brown-Waite worked on AIDS education while in Uganda), but long, and I'm not crazy about the quality of the video. So I went with the upbeat song instead. This is Ragga Dee, with Ndigida.

18 comments:

  1. I really want to read this book. It sounds wonderful to me.

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  2. Great stories!! I have been wondering about this one. Thanks for the review.

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  3. This does sound interesting. Where did you get the idea to add music and how in the world do you manage to find music to fit your reads? Way cool. Thanks.

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  4. Kathy and Bethany, I think the reading-adventure of this book would appeal to both of you.

    Susan, I got the inspiration to add music when I read a book called Freeze Frame and couldn't get the J. Geils Band song out of my head that whole week! Music is at least as much a passion of mine as reading is, so I like adding that dimension. It's tricky sometimes, but so fun to find the sound or lyrics that fit for me.

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  5. Now I'm regretting put this one back on the shelf at the bookstore the other day. Oh well...maybe on my next visit.

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  6. This sounds really interesting. I have to check it out! Thanks for the great review :)

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  7. I've been wavering, but your review (with the personal antecdote) put me over the edge for good.

    Thanks!

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  8. I loved how you reviewed this book. You really captivated me with your personal story. FuFu sounds pretty interesting, but I mainly just like saying it. :P

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  9. This sounds like a wonderful book, Ali! Thanks for the review. Which was spectacularly awesome, by the way.

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  10. I've had FuFu and it is good.

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  11. Thanks for the comments, guys! Coincidentally, I just started a book that takes place partly in Ghana (Jantzen's Gift). Think I may have to make a meal to go with the theme, here.

    Debi, I think you and I were on each other's sites at the exact same time last night. (I noticed your comment come in just as I was posting a comment to you!)

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  12. This was a fantastic memoir! I linked to your review.

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  13. Hi Ali,
    I've linked you for Little Lov'n Monday. Please come by and pay it forward. Leave a link and earn a chance to win a book.

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  14. I'm sold -- I really want to read this book! Thanks for the great review. By the way, I found this review via Susan's Little Lov'n Monday post.

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  15. This sounds like a great book, thanks for the review, Ali! I really enjoy personal memoir, so I'll be putting this on my wish list.

    Friends took us to a Moroccan restaurant in Atlanta once, The Imperial Fez. We ate from the communal bowl. I know it's traditional, but, like you, I would have preferred my own utensils!

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  16. Hey, thanks for the kind words and nice review. Funny thing - I actually worked - briefly - on the Philly Lutaaya AIDS prevention project in Uganda! He did a lot to promote AIDS awareness in Uganda back in the 90's.

    Awadifo, as we used to say in Arua.

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  17. Thanks for commenting, Eve. From the sounds of things, I think you must have worked briefly on every AIDS-related project in existence in Africa in the '90s!

    Dawn, the communal bowl can be a tough adjustment, that's for sure!

    Thank you for the link love, Susan! And thanks to you, Geoffrey and Aviannschild, for stopping by.

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