Pop culture does not mean celebrity culture; I have perhaps said this more often than anyone you're going to meet. Who dates, who gets a divorce, who has a tantrum, who has surreptitious photos snapped of him by mangy, grim opportunists — these things are not culture of any kind, popular or otherwise, unless there is something else at stake. They are curiosities, and given that we are curious creatures, their pull is not surprising, nor is it new, nor was it invented by the internet, or television, or Americans.
One need pick up on only a hint of the zeitgeist to know that monsters that once worried their careers had peaked in B-movies of the '50s are now enjoying a sustained resurgence. On screens and in the "Teen Paranormal Romance" section of Barnes and Noble, supernatural creatures of all stripes battle for the hearts (or throats) of our homecoming queens.
American literature has plenty of coming-of-age novels. What we need more of, judging by the strengths of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's new book, are novels about coming to America. In particular, books that address our biggest problems — in this case, race. Because things natives don't see about themselves often stand out like neon to foreign eyes. And if you think racism expired when President Obama was elected, this is perhaps not — or absolutely is — the book for you.
Jessica Buchanan was working as an aid worker in Somalia in the fall of 2011. She was based in northern Somalia, but in October, she traveled to the more dangerous southern half of the country for a training.
Credit Courtesy Erik Landemalm / Atria Books
Erik Landemalm, Buchanan's husband, was also an aid worker in northern Somalia. He expected Buchanan to get in touch and say that she'd returned from her trip; instead, he received a call saying that she'd been kidnapped.
In 2011, Jessica Buchanan was an aid worker in northern Somalia, helping to raise awareness about how to avoid land mines. The north was the relatively safe section of the country; that October, she traveled to the more dangerous southern region for a training. The night before she left, she texted her husband, Erik Landemalm, also an aid worker in Somalia. She asked him a question: "If I get kidnapped on this trip, will you come and get me?"