A Reading List For Black Expats From ‘Basic Black’

Basic Black explores the cultural nuances of communities of color, often from the perspective within America, but in our episode “Traveling and the Black Expat Experience”, we journeyed into the world of Black American expatriates. Black Americans who travel abroad to find a new home do so for many reasons, with better economic opportunities and escaping racism being top contenders. 

To accompany the discussion within the episode, below are some literary options to further gain insight into the Black Expat Experience. The following selections each share a different aspect of the Black Expat experience — from escaping America’s institutional racism, to finding belonging and even the challenges one could experience abroad.

photo courtesy wgbh.org

“Travelling While Black”

Author: Nanjala Nyabola
Date Published: November 2020
Nanjala Nyabola has dedicated her life to exploring the world and working with others with those same aspirations. Through her travels, Nanjala reflected on what it is like to explore a world determined to exclude Black people and dim Black happiness. From the continued impact colonization has left on the world to how it complicates Black travel — Nanjala addresses it all in her essays within Travelling While Black

“American Runaway – Black and Free in Paris in the Trump Years”

Author: Audrey Edwards 
Date Published: September 2020
During the Trump Campaign in 2016, journalist Audrey Edwards swore to herself that she would leave the United States if Donald Trump was elected. When Trump became the 45th president of the United States, Edwards fulfilled that promise to herself and escaped to Paris where she watched the Trump presidency from afar. Through this collection of essays, Edwards recites her journey navigating culture and racial bias, while still tethered to the politics and events in America. 

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“Searching for Zion” 

Author: Emily Raboteau 
Date Published: January 2013
When Emily Raboteau was 21 years old, she traveled to Israel to visit her childhood best friend. During her stay, Raboteau noticed how happy and content her friend was having found her place in the world. Emily realized that she could not say the same while living in America. She did not have a place to belong and call home. This motivated her ten-year journey around the world to find her Promised Land, “Zion.” 

“Native Stranger: Black American’s Journey into the Heart of Africa”

Author: Eddy Harris
Date Published: February 2002
Eddy Harris recites his journey into Africa as an African American — detailing the landscape as well as his encounters with native Africans from beggars to bureaucrats. Harris also self-reflects on the estranged relationship he feels with the continent. Despite knowing Africa was the home of his ancestors, he still felt alienated which he continuously grapples with in the novel. 

“Go Girl!: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure”

Author: Elaine Lee
Date Published: August 1997
“Go Girl!” is “part travelogue, part guidebook for African American women.” This series of 52 travel essays all come from the perspective of Black women around the world. Each essay has a unique and interesting perspective, with stories from different Black women living abroad from Ghana to Thailand. 

“Yet a Stranger: Why Black Americans Still Don’t Feel at Home”

Author: Deborah Mathis
Date Published: June 2009
Deborah Mathis maps out the reasons why Black Americans cannot claim the United States as their home or place to belong. This reasoning is often the motivation behind many Black American expats taking their leave of the country. Through a sociological and personal lens, this book gives context to African Americans feeling educationally, economically, and emotionally segregated from the rest of the country. 

“Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain”

Author: Lori Tharp
Date Published: March 2008
“Kinky Gazpacho” takes you on a journey with Lori Tharps, journalist and editor, from Wisconsin to Spain. Lori, who had a love for Spain from a young age, leaves for the country without a real plan, real connections, or even moderate Spanish-speaking ability. But despite cultural differences and racial prejudice, she embarks on a personal journey and finds a fulfilling life in Spain. 

“A Black Man in Europe”

Author: Nathan Jones
Date Published: December 2007
Nathan Jones takes a unique adventure and explores a Europe many are not able to experience. Jones brings the reader along on his journey through the Western European continent and allows the reader to determine for themselves how skin color modifies travel through Europe.

Written by Kavontae Smalls & Dalila Muata

About Oral Ofori

Oral Ofori is Founder and Publisher at www.TheAfricanDream.net, a digital storyteller and producer, and also an information and research consultant.

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