Love, Africa

From Jeffrey Gettleman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, comes a very personal, revealing story about finding love and finding a calling, set against one of the most turbulent regions in the world.

A seasoned war correspondent, Gettleman has covered every major conflict over the past twenty years, from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Congo. For the past decade, he has served as the East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times, fulfilling a teenage dream. Love, Africa is the multi-layered, visceral and fast-moving story of chasing down that dream and being torn by different loves.

At nineteen, Gettleman fell in love for the first time—twice. On a do-it-yourself community service trip in college, he went to East Africa, a terrifying, dreamlike part of the world in the throes of seismic change that imprinted itself on his imagination and heart. “I had been dazzled by my first hit," he writes, "captivated by the spirit, the energy, the differences, the feel." This trip would define his life.

But around the same time, he also fell in love with a fellow Cornell student—the brightest, classiest, most principled woman he’d ever met. To say they were opposites was an understatement. On their first date, he barely knew how to handle the cutlery. It didn’t matter. "We were at an age when all key decisions are made in small parts of seconds, and we had already decided, in one of those small parts, that we wanted something from each other." She became a criminal lawyer in America; he hungered to return to Africa. For the next decade, he would swing back and forth between these two seemingly polar passions.

A surprisingly candid story for a well-known journalist to write, Love, Africa tracks across Iraq, Afghanistan, the murderous swamps of Florida, through the savannahs, deserts and rainforests of Africa and into emotionally treacherous terrain that leads to the deepest recesses of the human heart. Gettleman captures life’s extreme highs and lows, being terrified, facing off with the wrong people at the wrong time, and making devastating choices that hurt people he loved. Spanning 25 years and much of the world, this memoir ends in an instant of magical beauty, a moment that Gettleman concludes wouldn’t have been possible without "a thousand accidents, some pretty dumb mistakes, and not a few deaths."

In these pages, you’ll meet some interesting people, real people: Somali pirates, benevolent warlords, a creepy crab fisherman and an erudite, dreadlocked rebel fighter — a "heavily armed dreamer" Gettleman calls him — who is desperate to read Samuel Huntington and goes by the name of Commander Peacock. This is a story rich with the professional rivalries Gettleman has weathered, the violence he has survived, the pain he has inflicted on himself, and the friends he has lost.

A beautifully rendered coming-of-age story, Love, Africa is a tale of passion, violence, far-flung adventure, tortuous long-distance relationships, forgiveness, parenthood, and happiness that explores the power of finding yourself in the most unexpected of places.

For a world that seems especially uncertain now, this book is an inspiring escape. As Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone, said: "I couldn’t put it down." Hopefully you won’t be able to either.

Rarely do you read such beautifully rendered honesty: witness the eyes and heart of Jeffrey transform into a remarkable person and writer for our time.
— Ishmael Beah
Jeffrey Gettleman has true grit. That’s why he was in my book, and why you have to read his.
— Angela Duckworth