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Black Ghosts: A Journey Into the Lives of Africans In China
(Canongate, 2023) 

One of the Financial Times Travel Books of 2023

China today is a land of opportunity for African people blocked from commerce with most of Europe and Northern America. It is also an intersection of racism and prejudice.

Noo Saro-Wiwa goes in search of China’s ‘Black Ghosts’, African economic migrants in the People’s Republic. Living in clustered communities, they are key to the trade between the continents. Her fascinating encounters include a cardiac surgeon, a drug dealer, a visa overstayer and men married to Chinese women who speak English with Nigerian accents. This is a story of intersecting cultures told with candour and compassion, focusing on the shared humanity between the sojourner and their hosts.



“A gripping examination of a little-known land: the one Africans occupy in China or, more accurately, in Guangdong. Who knew? Noo Saro-Wiwa has found a fine subject and covers it nimbly. This is a revealing book.”
Sara Wheeler

”Black Ghosts is a marvellous yet unlikely book, travel with a theme, the revelation of modern China by investigating the underclass of African immigrants - highly trained doctors as well as rascals and rappers. Noo Saro-Wiwa is a brave and resourceful traveller-interrogator - outstanding in the so-called travel writing genre.”
Paul Theroux

“Gutsy and determined, perhaps cut from the same cloth as her subjects, Saro-Wiwa succeeds in getting her story. The reader cannot help but be filled with admiration.”

“Absolutely fascinating … the portraits are heart-rending [and] fantastic”
Bbc Radio 4, Start The Week

“Shrewd and enthralling … The portraits [Noo Saro-Wiwa] presents are enlightening and affecting and a valuable contribution to this still poorly documented migration”

Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria
(Granta, 2012)

The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year


The first major non-fiction narrative of modern Nigeria by a Nigerian, Transwonderland is an engaging portrait of a country whose beauty and variety few will experience, depicted with wit and insight by a refreshing new voice in contemporary travel writing.



"Funny, tragic, warm and wonderfully written ... Full of the small intimacies and insider knowledge so lacking in the usual travel books about Africa."

Binyavanga Wainaina


"Writing a travel book for this Baedeker black spot might seem slightly counter-intuitive ... but Noo Saro Wiwa pulls off something remarkable. Making no claims to intellectual gravitas, wearing her research remarkably lightly, she nonetheless manages to tell us more about Africa’s modern-day giant in this deftly woven account than most academics do in a lifetime."

Michela Wrong, The Spectator (Read in full)


"With this memoir, Noo Saro-Wiwa,... establishes herself as a pioneer in contemporary travel writing – Africa as seen by Africans. Travelling from the mayhem of Lagos across Nigeria, she brings family history and the sometimes conflicted eye of an African raised away from the motherland to look at this vast, fascinating land. Only one who calls the country home could write such an honest account of contemporary Nigeria."

The Guardian


"The portrait of a chaotic kleptocracy... should be depressing, but her book brims with humour and humanity. She has been, so we don’t have to — and you’re thankful for both."

The Sunday Times (Read in full)


"What Noo Saro-Wiwa illuminates in her compelling account of a five-month journey around the land of her birth is how it feels to be a Nigerian today, getting by in a country that sometimes seems as though it had been designed to thwart initiative, subvert integrity and madden its 160m inhabitants ... The author's strength is that, although her patience is worn thin by all the scamming, scheming and privation, she never reaches the end of her tether. Instead, her anger dissolves into solidarity with a people she knew hitherto only from dreaded childhood holidays."

The Financial Times

"It would be easy to focus on the colourful insanity that is Africa's most populous nation. But Ms Saro-Wiwa is careful to avoid caricature. Curious, she travels out of Lagos to corners of the country many Nigerians never see .... Along the way, she allows herself to be surprised by kindness and humour, making new friends who open her eyes to the passion, wit and ingenuity of her homeland."

The Economist

"Saro-Wiwa is sharp and funny, both frustrated and charmed by Nigeria ... She may not make you rush out to book a flight to Lagos, but she certainly brings a new perspective to Africa's most populous country."

Natalie Haynes, Prospect magazine


"Saro-Wiwa makes her way across a vividly coloured Nigeria of potholes, rocks and rivers, peopled with fascinating characters ... Her gifts lie in her keen eye for the sights, sounds, souls and insanities of contemporary Nigeria, and in her ability to recreate these. The book is a breathless chronicle of diversity."

Tolu Ogunlesi

"The dominant tone of this book is one of humour and affection ... Saro-Wiwa's insider/outsider view of Nigeria makes intriguing reading. She is fiercely honest and compassionate about a county most tourists travel miles to avoid. Her father was hanged for speaking his mind; we should be thankful his fearless daughter will not be deterred from speaking hers."

The Sunday Telegraph

"Nigeria does not top many people's lists of the ideal holiday destination ... So all the more praise to travel writer Noo Saro-Wiwa for producing such an affectionate and irreverent guide to a place so far from the beaten tourist track ... in her gentle style, she peels away many of the clichés that envelop Nigeria and reveals both the beauty and brutality of this slumbering superpower."

The Observer (Read in full)

"Noo Saro-Wiwa's double advantage is to understand personally the mindset of Nigerians as a distinct ethnicity while reporting back to us as an acculturated Westerner ... she writes with a candid humour that sharply colours the pains and pleasures of homecoming."

The Times

"Her gifts lie in her keen eye for the sights, sounds, souls and insanities of contemporary Nigeria, and in her ability to recreate these. The book is a breathless chronicle of diversity ... Her encounters are at once full of pathos and brightness."

The Independent

"Noo Saro-Wiwa's exceptional story lends an interesting weight to Looking for Transwonderland, as she begins to rediscover the place she used to call home ... her vivid portraits of Nigerian life are intelligent and often very witty ... she offers a bright and honest account of Nigeria, a mad melting-pot that few travellers, especially those in her position, are willing to take on."


"Hands up those of you who are planning to go to Nigeria on your next trip. Me neither ... But after reading Looking for Transwonderland I'm thinking of changing my plans ... As she travels through the country Saro-Wiwa is won over by the tolerance, humour and resilience of Nigerians."


"The daughter of slain Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa revisits her homeland as an adult in this absorbing tour of that complex African country... As she tours the country and gets to know people from its many ethnic groups, she gains a better understanding of and appreciation for Nigeria. Saro-Wiwa is a sharp and insightful guide, giving readers an intimate look at the varied regions that comprise this fascinating country."

Booklist (Starred)


"This is an affectionate portrait of a loud and lively nation with infuriating potential."




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