Travelling While Black
Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move
Thoughtful, original reflections on migration and identity from an African woman abroad.
Shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year
What does it feel like to move through a world designed to limit and exclude you? What are the joys and pains of holidays for people of colour, when guidebooks are never written with them in mind? How are black lives today impacted by the othering legacy of colonial cultures and policies? What can travel tell us about our sense of self, of home, of belonging and identity? Why has the world order become hostile to human mobility, as old as humanity itself, when more people are on the move than ever?
Nanjala Nyabola is constantly exploring the world, working with migrants and confronting complex realities challenging common assumptions – both hers and others’. From Nepal to Botswana, Sicily to Haiti, New York to Nairobi, her sharp, humane essays ask tough questions and offer surprising, deeply shocking and sometimes funny answers. It is time we saw the world through her eyes.
‘An insightful, sometimes uncomfortable read, and, like travel itself, opens our eyes.’ — The Times
‘Nanjala Nyabola is a highly self-aware guide in this personal investigation into race, travel and migration in the 21st century… exploring them with depth and insight and a bright alertness to difference. […] Often beautifully written, the book rewards on many levels, especially when the personal and political are brought together.’ — The Irish Times
‘A rigorous meditation on what it means to move through the world as a Black, African woman. … This is a thought-provoking book.’ — The New York Times
‘[Written with] passion, erudition, and fluidity … Provocative and always willing to take on the conventional wisdom, Nyabola emerges with this book as an important observer.’ — Foreign Affairs
‘Nyabola’s strength lies in an ability to join the dots and analyse what she sees before her, in fiercely articulate and erudite prose. … [She] exhorts us to … look at the bigger picture and rethink the status quo.’ — Times Literary Supplement
‘Through her experiences, [Nanjala Nyabola] brings to life the legacies of “othering” and colonialism that impact how Black people are perceived and treated around the world.’ — Metro
‘Reading Travelling While Black feels like engaging in a conversation that I have always wanted to have. … Inspirational, thoughtful and informative.’ — The World Today
‘Skilfully told … constantly challenging the reader to ask questions and see the world from varying perspectives.’ — African Arguments
‘Travelling While Black constantly urges us to look beyond the self, to larger historical acts, to contextualise our, and others’ lives. All this without losing sight of our humanity.’ — Travel Writing World
‘In the great tradition of Said, Orwell and Bessie Head, Nyabola’s is a profound, gripping and beautiful book of undeniable genius on exile, migration and travel in our catastrophic times. It speaks to all those committed to truth and justice.’ — Cornel West, author of Race Matters and Professor of the Public Practice of Philosophy, Harvard University
‘A valiant exploration of one of humanity’s most fundamental needs: the freedom to move. Drawing on a captivating life of her own, Nanjala Nyabola powerfully reminds us of the complexity of human identity. Above all, an incredibly moving book.’ — David Lammy MP, author of Tribes: How Our Need to Belong Can Make or Break Society
‘Nyabola’s insightful essays deal with identity and the notion of home and belonging, in a world challenged by mobility and dislocation. This collection joins a venerable tradition of Black essay-writing, as it discovers for the socially aware traveller new routes and philosophies to explore.’ — Margaret Busby, editor of New Daughters of Africa
‘What a book! Nyabola takes us on a travel odyssey and an inner quest, and with her we recognise what remains undone and how we see or unsee others. Lethal and restless, yet tender and vulnerable. Disturbing, delicious, defiant. A triumph.’ — Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, author of Dust and The Dragonfly Sea
‘A unique, provocative and thoughtful collection of essays. Part autobiography and travelogue, but also a powerful reflection on migration, travel, identity, racism, literature, language, Pan-Africanism and the experiences of a young Kenyan woman travelling throughout the modern world.’ — Hakim Adi, Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora, University of Chichester, and author of Pan-Africanism: A History
‘At a time where the freedom of Black people to exist and move safely feels compromised, Nyabola’s collection of essays on travelling is an urgent intervention which powerfully marries cultural and political exploration to the intricacies of modern Black identity.’ — Jason Okundaye, writer and campaigner
Nanjala Nyabola is a writer and political analyst based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work focuses on the intersection between technology and politics, as well as migration and human mobility. A constant traveller, at the time of writing she has visited over seventy countries across four continents.