Searching for one’s identity can be a vertiginous experience, especially for an immigrant shuffling from one culture to another. In Floating in a Most Peculiar Way, Louis Chude-Sokei cannily captures this tumbling free fall through a variety of cultures as he negotiates what it means to be African in Jamaica and the United States.
Chude-Sokei was born in Biafra on July 6, 1967—just past midnight on the day that war was declared between Biafra and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He learned early that his father, killed in the war, lived on in the country’s memory as a great Biafran hero. His mother—whom he heard referred to as the “Jackie O. of Nigeria,” in part because she always wore dark glasses—moved to the U.S. and sent the fatherless boy away to Jamaica, where he was raised by women and where his quest for a society among men began.
Chude-Sokei’s mother eventually brought him to the U.S., where they lived first in Washington, D.C., and then in Los Angeles. In California, he learned what it takes to survive in an unfamiliar culture. He also discovered his love of stories and the music of David Bowie, both of which helped him navigate the rough waters of adapting to a new neighborhood and trying to find himself. Chude-Sokei felt like he had fallen from space, an alien creature in a Black neighborhood that didn’t accept his accent, his Blackness or his love of science fiction and David Bowie. He began to understand the “prejudices and tensions” within Black America and the “pain and promise” of living within them.
Floating in a Most Peculiar Way is a compelling story of the challenges of living what feels like “life on Mars.”
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover more great memoirs this Memoir March.