Leap in the Dark by Emmanuel Ngwainmbi
Leap in the Dark provides a unique perspective into the African experience in America combined with a fierce secondary romantic plot. Emmanuel Ngwainbi writes knowledgably about Tito, a young African who has completed his studies at a university in West Africa and who travels to Mississippi to pursue a Master’s degree in the United States. Full of bright ideals and innocence about the American way of life and the freedom American citizens enjoy, Tito arrives in Mississippi with barely a penny to his name and no plans for housing. Quickly submerged in an utterly unfamiliar climate, both physically and socially, Tito struggles with his preconceived notions about America and the realities that await him there. He finds himself enmeshed in a romantic relationship with a white professor at his university who takes him under her wing, and the path of their love affair travels colorfully alongside of important discussions of race, political science, and history, as well as vivid events of violence and danger.
Ngwainbi creates a rich atmosphere in which you feel yourself identifying with the young Tito, who is filled to the brim with dreams and who is also unaware of the sometimes brutal conditions that black people in the deep south face. Alternating intensely passionate sexual sequences and highly intellectual dialogue, Ngwainbi manages to blend university discourse with the language of love, educating his audience as well as stimulating their more romantic side. More critical readers, however, may find the plot devoid of more complex details and the intellectual dialogue tedious and hard to wade through. While there is a plethora of historical and cultural information offered in the text which may grab some curious readers, others will find themselves sifting through what feels like one of the university lessons Tito himself faces in the story. Overall, Leap in the Dark offers an illuminating look into one man’s culture shock and the resulting consequences of being immersed in the unfamiliar and an oftentimes unfriendly atmosphere.
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