It wasn’t easy to find a book for Niger; I had to dig pretty deep in my library’s resources to find something. Three cheers for OhioLink in helping me get to In Sorcery’s Shadow: A Memoir of Apprenticeship among the Songhay of Niger by Paul Stoller and Cheryl Olkes.
A big goal of mine with this blog has been to seek out local writers; to learn about voices that my own culture might not easily introduce me to. With that in mind, I try to steer clear of anthropological studies. How odd would it be to have a total stranger drop in to your life, study you, and then publish papers about your world in order to be viewed as an authority on it? It seems so…strange.
But, for the second country in a row, that’s where I found myself. This time around, it turned into a very good lesson of “never say never” because I truly enjoyed the book. The author takes a deep plunge into the culture that he was studying, the Songhay of the Niger River in northwestern Niger. He’s invited into a world that not many people have the privilege of traveling through, after an auspicious omen takes place in front of a practicing sorcerer. It’s a fascinating journey, and a book that will stay with me for a long time.