'A very funny, intelligent, deliberately and engagingly resistant, and moving piece of writing' Amit Chaudhuri
A 'recovering writer' - his first novel having been littered with typos and selling only fifty copies - Frank Jasper is plucked from obscurity in Port Jumbo in Nigeria by Mrs Kirkpatrick, a white woman and wife of an American professor, to attend the prestigious William Blake Program for Emerging Writers in Boston.
Once there, however, it becomes painfully clear that he and the other Fellows are expected to meet certain obligations as representatives of their 'cultures.' His colleagues, veterans of residencies in Europe and America, know how to play up to the stereotypes expected of them, but Frank isn't interested in being the African Writer at William Blake - any anyway, there is another Fellow, Barongo Akello Kabumba, who happily fills that role.
Eventually expelled from the fellowship for 'non-performance' and 'non-participation,' Frank Jasper sets off on trip to visit his father's college friend in Nebraska - where he learns not only surprising truths about his father, but also how to parlay his experiences into a lucrative new career once he returns to Nigeria: as a commentator on American life...
Seesaw is an energetic comedy of cultural dislocation - and in its humour, intelligence and piety-pricking, it is a refreshing and hugely enjoyable act of literary rebellion.
Average rating from 3 members
Seesaw is a novel about a Nigerian writer whose failing novel is discovered by a white American woman who suggests he apply to the William Blake Program for Emerging Writers in Boston. Frank leaves Port Jumbo for America, where it becomes apparent he is expected to be an 'African' writer and talk about post-colonialism, and Frank doesn't want to be the stereotype, but being expelled turns out to be quite helpful for a writing career. The book is both a satire of literary culture and what is expected of authors, and the story of a somewhat lost man finding direction. It is told with hindsight, and the pacing wasn't quite what I expected, but I liked the parts that paralleled Frank's experiences with what he later uses in his reinvigorated career commenting on America. There was also some good light-hearted mockery of academic and literary language and how it can both mean nothing and specific things. Because Frank was the narrator, a lot of the book was more focused on what he did and saw than these elements, and for me I would've preferred more of them. A comic novel about a writer going in a strange journey to and around America, Seesaw is a light read that still delves into cultural difference and what diversity in literature really means, albeit in a satirical way.
About the book: Frank Jasper is discovered by a white woman in Nigeria as an up and coming writer. He’s flown to Boston to attend the prestigious William Blake Program for Emerging Writers. Once in America though, he is pressured to enforce stereotypes of where you come from. Refusing to do this rubs people the wrong way and eventually he’s expelled from the fellowship. This gives Frank a chance to travel to his father’s college friend, where he learns things about his father he wasn’t aware of. Frank discovers a new path in life and when he returns to Nigeria, he embarks on a lucrative career as a commentator on American life. My thoughts: I enjoyed the book and all the observations as an outsider navigating in the US. I guess the narration style wasn't for me. I felt like a story like this would have been more engaging with more detailed conversations and third person narration.