- Fizzy Thoughts: Kinky Gazpacho

Kinky Gazpacho

Saturday, August 01, 2009

kinky gazpacho
Kinky Gazpacho
Lori Tharps
March 2008
224 pages

Publisher Comments:

Magazine writer and editor Lori Tharps was born and raised in the comfortable but mostly White suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she was often the only person of color in her school and neighborhood. At an early age, Lori decided that her destiny would be discovered in Spain. She didn't know anyone from Spain, had never visited the country, and hardly spoke the language. Still, she never faltered in her plans to escape to the Iberian Peninsula.

Arriving in the country as an optimistic college student, however, Lori soon discovers Spain's particular attitude toward Blackness. She is chased down the street by the local schoolchildren and pointed at incessantly in public, and her innocent dreams of a place where race doesn't matter are shattered. The story would end there, except Lori meets and marries a Spaniard, and that's when her true Spanish adventure really begins.

Against the ancient backdrops of Cádiz and Andalucía, Lori starts the intricate yet amusing journey of rekindling her love affair with Spain and becoming a part of her new Spanish family. From a grandmother who spies on her to a grandfather who warmly welcomes her to town with a slew of racist jokes, the close-knit clan isn't exactly waiting with open arms. Kinky Gazpacho tells the story of the redeeming power of love and finding self in the most unexpected places.

At its heart, this is a love story. It is a memoir, a travel essay, and a glimpse into the past and present of Spain. As humorous and entertaining as such favorite travel stories as Under the Tuscan Sun, this book also unveils a unique and untold history of Spain's enduring connection to West Africa. Kinky Gazpacho celebrates the mysticism of travel and the joys of watching two distinct cultures connect and come together.

I would say this book is more about Tharps’ own quest for love and finding herself, and less of a travel memoir.  Her reflections of her experiences in Spain focus more on what it is like to be Black in Spain, than on living or traveling in the country.  So in the one sense it is a highly personal account.  However, if you are looking for a book that gives you a sense of place, this isn’t it. I was actually disappointed when Tharps got to Spain and seemed to spend her time wanting/not wanting men.  I wanted more travel!I think it’s misleading that I found it in the travel memoir section…I think it would be better suited to multi-cultural education.

And if I look at the book in that light, than I like it.  Tharps is very candid about her experiences growing up in white suburbs, and not quite fitting in.  When she went to college she tried to reinvent herself by embracing Black culture, but she didn’t find instant acceptance there, either.  Spain was also a struggle, as she struggled to figure out why she was both an object of attraction and scorn.  It isn’t until she is married and a journalist that Tharps uncovers Spain’s history with slavery, and therefore gains a better understanding of the people and the country that have become intertwined in her life.

So while this certainly wasn’t the book I originally thought it would be, it still ended up being an interesting and educational read.

7 comment(s):

Lit and Life said...

Sounds like an interesting and unique read. Although even if there had been more about travel in it, it seems to have been misplaced in the travel section.

bermudaonion said...

I wonder why they categorized that as a travel memoir? It does sound like something I'd like.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting instance of miscataloging. At least they got the color right of the protagonist on the cover. Can't have everything, I guess! :--)

Heather J. said...

this actually sounds really good to me :)

Beth F said...

Weird categorizing . . . seems to be a theme. Nicole just read a book classified as Science Fiction, which had only the element of time travel (a la Time Traveler's Wife). And -- wait -- it just hit me, that book had a black woman as the protagonist too. Is it a conspiracy? (new controversy in blogland?)

Belle said...

I knew I had to get this book the moment I saw the title. I'm surprised, though, that you found it in the travel section! That is very strange.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Now I'm curious. I'm going to do a (totally nonscientific) survey of the bookstores I visit over the next few weeks, and will let you know where this is shelved ...

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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