A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid


Book Pages: 512 Illustrations: Published: August 2015

Activism, African American Studies and Black Diaspora, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs

In 1995, a South African journalist informed Frank Wilderson, one of only two American members of the African National Congress (ANC), that President Nelson Mandela considered him "a threat to national security." Wilderson was asked to comment. Incognegro is that "comment." It is also his response to a question posed five years later in a California university classroom: "How come you came back?" Although Wilderson recollects his turbulent life as an expatriate during the furious last gasps of apartheid, Incognegro is at heart a quintessentially American story. During South Africa's transition, Wilderson taught at universities in Johannesburg and Soweto by day. By night, he helped the ANC coordinate clandestine propaganda, launch psychological warfare, and more. In this mesmerizing political memoir, Wilderson's lyrical prose flows from unspeakable dilemmas in the red dust and ruin of South Africa to his return to political battles raging quietly on US campuses and in his intimate life. Readers will find themselves suddenly overtaken by the subtle but resolute force of Wilderson's biting wit, rare vulnerability, and insistence on bearing witness to history no matter the cost.


"[F]requently beautiful. . . . Angry and paranoid." — Kirkus Reviews

"Wilderson has offered an important and groundbreaking story of the last days of apartheid. . . . More than anything Incognegro teaches us that the fall of apartheid was not bloodless or peaceful, that the corruption of neo-colonialism inhabits South Africa still, and it invites us, wherever we are, inside or outside South Africa, to tear down ourselves to the very foundations."  — Meta L. Schettler, Callaloo

"Wilderson's epic . . . offers thoughtful and provocative detail and nuance on each [read]. The book makes you rethink the idea of what a hero is and why and who crowned Nelson Mandela as such. It reveals the soul wrenching challenge of what it means to be an activist. It prompts a redefinition of success. And Wilderson takes on what he describes as some left-wingers' deep need to cling to the notion that South Africa's apartheid was different than racism on U.S. soil."  — Esther Armah, New York Amsterdam News

"Radical, defiant, and searingly honest, this memoir about being active in the freedom struggle in the U.S. and in post-apartheid South Africa is bound to spark passionate argument as Wilderson weaves together his personal story with his politics, always critical of those in power."  — Hazel Rochman, Booklist

"Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. . . . Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis . . . a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days."  — Publishers Weekly

"Wilderson [will] become a major American writer. Mark my word."
— Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo

"Into the wake of great literature fighting human bondage, Frank Wilderson pours Incognegro. And, like the offerings of Ellison, Fanon, Baldwin, and Morrison, this revolutionary love story must be widely read, generously shared, and relentlessly engaged."
— Joy James, author of Shadowboxing: Representations of Black Feminist Politics

"Fast-paced, critical, humorous, hilarious at times, Incognegro asks provocative questions about post-Apartheid South Africa and post-civil rights America with all the passion, the drama, and the political clarity of a great autobiography. With perspectives from different times and places in the two continents, and with an unerring eye and ear for a telling detail and image, Frank Wilderson brings a novelistic and dramatic imagination to a story of our times. It is a multi-layered narrative of a life molded in struggles for human dignity in America and Africa, at once a gripping story of racial politics and a biography of his soul." — Ngugi wa Thiong'o, author of Wizard of the Crow


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Frank B. Wilderson III is Professor of African American Studies and Drama at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Red, White and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms, also published by Duke University Press.

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Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Finalist, 2008 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year

Winner of the 2008 American Book Award

Winner, 2009 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Book Award

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5993-7
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