A personal insight into race, travel and migration

Travel while black
From Nanjala Nyabola
Hurst, £ 14.99
Nanjala Nyabola is a very confident guide in this personal exploration of race, travel and migration in the 21st century. She describes experiences that many Irish readers would know and explores them with depth and insight, and with a bright vigilance to difference. She arrives after the earthquake in Haiti as the only black member of a group of law students. On the way to Everest base camp, she fights altitude sickness and racism. Although her voice is that of an educated and cosmopolitan world traveler, Nyabola draws attention to the contrast between this learned voice and her often stigmatized body: young, female, with black skin and a Kenyan passport. Often written beautifully, the book rewards on many levels, especially when the personal and the political are brought together. – – Carol Ballantine

The Midlife Mind: Literature and the Art of Aging
By Ben Hutchinson
Reaction Books, £ 20
Ben Hutchinson has reached middle age (43) and uses his own experiences with aging and what some famous writers have said about midlife to explore its meaning. He first sets the cultural context (it turns out that the “midlife crisis” like Philip Larkin’s “sexual intercourse” began as a concept in the 1960s) and draws on ancient and modern philosophers, but in particular on Michel de Montaigne, the retired from political and social life at the ripe old age of 38 to compose his famous essays. Hutchinson then skillfully draws on a variety of creative writers, including Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, George Eliot, Henry James, TS Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and Simone de Beauvoir, for their experiences and views. He is comforted that some of the most beautiful works of art were created in the Middle Ages. – – Brian Maye

Border Wars: The Conflicts of Tomorrow
By Klaus Dodds
Ebury Press, £ 20
In this engaging and informative study, Dodds examines numerous future conflicts: Boundary shifts due to landscape and environmental changes; Regions at a dead end; unrecognized boundaries; Boundaries that develop as a result of technological innovations, for example in space and under water, which are hidden by some countries. And viral boundaries, something we are all too aware of now. In this context, Dodds believes that the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to a sharp decline in international cooperation and openness, especially if the “geopolitics of sovereignty” prevails. Still, he remains optimistic about future relationships between nations whose hands may be forced by new border emergencies due to climate change, as well as war / persecution. Somewhat threatening and with foresight, he states that there is no international legal recognition of the category “refugee from climate change”. – – NJ McGarrigle

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