Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tony D'Souza's Whiteman Most Anticipated Book Of 2006

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D’Souza’s Whiteman:
 Most Anticipated Book
“I don’t have any more money.”
“There is always more money, whiteman,” the second man shouted at me.  He stepped closer to me, like trying to crowd me in.  “White people are the richest in the world.  Therefore, when there is a whiteman, there is always more money.”
“No more money,” I said and shook my head.
He jerked the leash from me, pulled the dog to him.  “No, money, no dog.  Hey,” he said to the one with the paunch.  “Shoot this dog.”
The other man raised his machine gun, aimed at the dog’s face.  She was looking at me, straining at the rope that bound her.  She was soaked from the rain, looked even smaller than she was.  The others were far ahead now, moving away among the refugees for Vavoua.  Only Melissa waited.  I pulled the leash back, picked up the dog.  “Shoot me,” I said.
Excerpt from Whiteman page 276

            In July 2003, Peace Corp volunteer and writer Tony D’Souza traveled to Dunsmuir, California, a mountain town on the upper Sacramento River, where he stayed in an old building (once the town’s morgue) called the Mortuary, and began writing voraciously. 
One year later, while still living there, he began writing Whiteman, and within five months he completed the novel.  Within three weeks after finishing it, D’Souza was taking calls from five major publishing houses. He went with Harcourt, Inc. In April 2006, Whiteman was released, going into its second printing just three weeks later. The original manuscript of Whiteman consisted of over 1000 pages, telling the events of relief worker Jack Diaz’s experiences on the Ivory Coast in Africa and his return to the United States. D’Souza threw away an estimated 730 pages. 

“I threw away stories Jack was telling from after his return to the U.S.  I wanted this book to be only in that village.  So that’s what I let it be.”       

The name D’Souza derives from the old Portuguese,

and places its home in Goa, a colony of India, where his mother worked as a Peace Corp volunteer from 1966 to 1968 and where she met D’Souza’s father, the son of the police chief of the India town in which she served.

        D’Souza was born in Chicago on July 2, 1974 and raised, along with his younger sister, Alyson, in Park Ridge, Illinois, where he graduated from high school in 1992.  At the time, D’Souza had no clue what he wanted to do with his life.  He attempted to enter West Point, only to fail the color blindness of the physical test.  He spent the entire summer exploring the state of Alaska on bicycle.  He earned his B.A. in English at Carthage, and later interned at a Washington D.C. defense-think-tank for six months.   When his father died of a heart attack, he became more serious about his writing and his writing became a necessity in order for him to cope.

       His coping mechanism paid off, and within the year, he was one of seven fiction writers picked to represent the United States at the first United States-Cuban Writers Summit in Havana since the revolution.  
After he received his M.A. In English from Hollins University and M.F.A. from University of Notre Dame he entered the Peace Corp in May of 2000, where he served 27 months in Cote D’Ivoire and four months in Madagascar. 
         “I joined to travel, to honor my mother, to voice my dissatisfaction with the continual growth of capitalism, to live in a foreign language, to experience black Africa, for adventure, a challenge, to be able to brag about being in the Peace Corps for the rest of my life, to do something good in the world.”

       D’Souza was assigned to a Muslim village, which he described as Joseph Conrad’s world of green, situated on the edge of the forest and savannah.  Like Jack Diaz in Whiteman, D’Souza experienced hunting in the rainforests; cultivating yam; navigating nuances of the language; witchcraft; storytelling; chivalry; and maintaining the village diet, which consisted of cassava, rice, fresh mango, papaya, and bananas.  D’Souza also spoke the village’s language, Worodougou. 
In fact, the main character of Whiteman, Jack Diaz, is half fiction and half autobiographical.     
“I use Jack to put myself in situations I really wasn’t it.  He’s me in the sense that I would have made the same decisions that he does when confronted with adversity.  But I really did tell that soldier to shoot me when he was going to shoot my dog.” 

       One of D’Souza’s duties as an HIV/AIDS rural educator to the 700 villagers was to demonstrate how to place condoms over a wooden penis.  He also worked in the fields all day: farming yams, tobacco, corn, rice, sweet potato, papaya, banana, peppers, eggplant, and okra.  The weather conditions were continuously hot with a six-month rainy season followed by a six-month dry season.  During the evenings D’Souza resided in his hut made of mud, brick, and grass thatch, where he’d write by lamplight.  Though he wrote fiction, he focused on his personal journals, letting “Africa happen to me on its terms.”  
D’Souza found that his greatest challenge in Africa was not the language, the diet, the work, or having to use a brick outhouse, but the overpowering violence that was ongoing his whole time spent on the Ivory Coast.       

Within the first three months D’Souza had to twice evacuate the Muslim village, which had now become the major war front, and travel to the regional capital city Seguela for safety.  In Seguela, he and his peers stayed in a flophouse with no services, and witnessed the military seize the city.   He had been gassed during a race riot and was caught in other violent situations, particularly when he’d ride his bicycle to Seguela’s post office.  Toward the end of his stay, he had to evacuate the village a third time and head back to Seguela.   
“For two days I walked and hid in the forest and villages on the way to Seguela.  I then had to make a run for it across the war zone the same day that the rebels arrived to take the city for good.”
        For his safety, D’Souza was transferred to Madagascar, Africa, to help restart their program closed in 2001 due to violence.  He spent two months in training and served two months as an English teacher in a small island-town, while living in a small room above the kitchen in a Catholic orphanage, with only a burlap sack filled with rice chaff for a bed.  

“I was haunted by the violence in Cote D’Ivorie.  I had been just as excited as any of your basic mob machete butcher by the prospect of the war.  I had not known what the horror it really would mean for people, and I had that disgusting black spot in my soul to regret and make me question my own goodness.”

After the Christmas holiday, D’Souza left his post and wandered through southern Madagascar, where he climbed the highest peaks only to discover that “there are no more answers at the top of a mountain than at its base because the only answers are in the heart.”
       Six weeks later he was back at the orphanage, and within two days was on a plane to Johannesburg, where he wandered for months throughout the continent.  When his money ran out in Mozambique he headed back home to the states, stopping in Park Station, Johannesburg, where he was mugged and beaten, robbed of his money and his personal journals.    

        Despite the loss of his journals, he still had the memories, and though his American name is Tony D’Souza, he could not forget his African name given to him by the villagers – Adama Toubabou that translates to Whiteman in Worodougou – thus the title of his first novel.

       The National Endowment For the Arts named D’Souza as a 2006 Literature Fellow in Prose.  With the monetary gift, D’Souza is studying his own ancestry to better understand the European exploitation of trafficking black slaves. 

     D’Souza, his wife Jessyka and their two children, daughter Gwen, 4, and son Rohan, 3, reside in Sarasota, Florida where he is contributing editor for Sarasota Magazine and St. Louis, Missouri where Jessyka is pursuing her graduate degree in Creative Writing.

Whiteman has been has awarded American Academy of Arts & Letters Sue Kaufman Award, Best First Fiction; Finalist, LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award, Best First Fiction; Finalist, PEN American Center/Robert Bingham Fellowship Award; Finalist, The New York Public Library Young Lions Award; Florida Gold Medal For General Fiction; Poets & Writers Magazine Best First Fiction; Peace Corps Writers Organization Maria Thomas Fiction Award; Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award; and a Whiteman Chapter was included in the 2007 O. Henry Awards Anthology. It made The New York Times Book Review Editor’s Pick; 4 Star People Magazine Critic’s Choice; Border’s Original Voices Selection; and Conde Nest Traveler’s “Greatest Fiction Travel Books of All Time’ list.  Whiteman was also heralded one of the most anticipated novels of the year 2006 by The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair.
Visit the web on for more information on Tony D’Souza and his book Whiteman.

Photo 1.  Tony D'Souza.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 2.  Whiteman jacket cover.
Photo 3.  Tony D'Souza.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 4.  Tony D'Souza.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 5.  Tony D'Souza in Africa in his field of crops.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 6.  Tony D'Souza taking a shower in Africa.  Copyirght by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 7.  French soldiers of the 1st Airborne hussars in Ivory Coast.  2003.  GNU Free Documentation License.
Photo 8.  Road from Segula to Abidjan through Teguela.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 9.  Gas Station in Teguela, Cote D'Ivorie.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 10. View of Antananarivo, Madagascar in March 9, 2007.  By Bernard Gagnon.  GNU Free Documentaiton License.   
Photo 11. Park Station in Johannesburg.  By Rute Martin of Leoa's Photography ( Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Photo 12. Second Whiteman jacket cover.
Photo 13. Rohan, Jessyka, Tony, and Gwen D'Souza.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.
Photo 14.  Tony D'Souza.  Copyright by Tony D'Souza.  

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