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by Mukotani Rugyendo
As the author, with fifty other African public officials and professionals, lands at New York’s JFK International Airport to begin a five-week visit of America, he is nagged by the reality that his country is struggling to come to terms with itself, having just overthrown an eight-year military dictatorship that earned it the epithet ‘the killing field of Africa’ in international media. He is overwhelmed by the enormity of having to turn this image around and walk with his head high. Yet, with his sharp journalist’s eye, sensitivity of a creative writer and innate love for adventure, he succumbs to the alluring temptation to take a plunge and grasp the essence of the American experience.
Rugyendo meets some of America’s iconic writers and theatre directors who recall their visits to Africa with contagious nostalgia; engages in controversial debates with academics and journalists who defend America fiercely as the epitome of freedom and liberty; and makes scary, fleeting visits to poor city neighborhoods where black youths with withdrawn, groggy or agitated faces tell a different story that hovers ominously.
Amidst hair-raising tension and fear, Rugyendo witnesses his newfound actor-friend and a cab driver indulge in a drug-taking orgy; a smart and amiable airport limousine chauffer shocks him with a discrete question, ‘Do you have “the weed”?’; and street girls caress him into a love-like stupor and pick his pockets clean.
As the plane returns him to Africa, Rugyendo is jolted out of his hazy and illusory ‘American dream,’ and gears himself to confront the rough-and-tumble of the unique challenges back home.
About the Author:
Mukotani Rugyendo is a Ugandan writer who lives in Kampala. He has previously published a collection, The Barbed Wire and Other Plays (Heinemann); and stories, poems and reviews in anthologies and journals.
(2016, Paperback, 182 pages)