Book Review: Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris: Getting Lost and Getting Found

Kiratiana Freelon plans to expose the world to Paris and its Black lineage with the first in a line of travel guides. “Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris: Getting Lost and Getting Found” attempts to inspire people to explore more th

by Daniele Woods ChicagoDefender.com Contributing Writer Kiratiana Freelon plans to expose the world to Paris and its Black lineage with the first in a line of travel guides. “Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris: Getting Lost and Getting Found” attempts to inspire people to explore more than just the Eiffel Tower when visiting the iconic city.   The Harvard graduate’s book offers information on famed author Richard Wright, hip-hop, and even how African influenced Picasso.  However, there’s tons of “Before You Go” information: Try to travel off season which seems to be important if you are looking to indulge in typical Parisian life. “For most Americans, vacation usually means July and August, but I find Paris to be uncomfortable and empty during the summer,” she stated. A luxury many Americans are use to is air conditioning, so Freelon wants travelers to think. “Air conditioning is not widespread; the MΘtro heat is unbearable, shops and clubs will often close for the entire month of August,” Freelon said. There is also the no-brainer of getting a passport or visa and check out movies, books, and websites that will help you become more familiar with the city. Remember to check on the latest currency exchange rates. “Once you get to Paris, check out the black media or consider working with an organization to the African Diaspora.” While there are several walking tours in the book, the Black Parisian history is the most interesting. “Unlike the United States and Great Britain, France does not keep a tally of its minorities. It most certainly has the biggest immigrant population in Europe, however, with almost 10 million immigrants (out of 60 million total) in France, and around 1.5 million in Paris alone.” Influence from Diaspora in Paris includes Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guinana, RΘunion, and West, Central and Northern Africa dating as far back as the late 1800s. During World War I, African and African-American soldiers experienced racial tolerance for the first time. This acceptance led to the introduction of jazz and the lure of “African Americans with its promise of a racism-free society.”   “The modern African-American literary scene in Paris cultivated by James Baldwin and Richard Wright on the 1950s and ‘60s, is not entirely gone.” While Freelon’s book takes a look at the past, she notes two current African-American writers—Jake Lamar and Miles Marshall Lewis—who have become successful. Since arriving in Paris, Lamar and Lewis journalistic careers have flourished producing several novels for both. Most importantly, explore “the culture and history of Africans, African Americans, and Antilleans in Paris.” Also included in the book are dates for several African inspired festivals to experience, extensive information about the jazz influence and where to go to experience it. Something good that Freelon worked in her become was technology. While she encouraged travelers to check websites, there are also Twitter handles for those living in Paris. Freelon’s book launch will be July 14 at 6 p.m. at Prairie Avenue Gallery, 1900 S. Prairie Ave. in Chicago. Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.

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