Jeffrey Gettleman, Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War and Survival
“Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War and Survival” by Jeffrey Gettleman, a reporter for the New York Times who spent 17 years as the East-Africa bureau chief for the media outlet, is the author’s autobiography chronicling his life as a war correspondent in Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The book wonderfully tells the story of his struggle to balance life as a reporter in dangerous situations while trying to maintain relationships with loved ones living thousands of miles away. His work chronicles his growth as a journalist, man, lover and eventually, father while also telling the story of Africa’s growth from a fledgling continent exploited by Western influences to its brief period of peace later eventually torn apart by rebels, terrorists and corrupt politicians.
Gettleman’s memoirs put the reader into situations he encountered, and does so with intense journalistic detail. His writing puts the reader into warzones in Afghanistan, portraying the pain of families who lost young loved ones to the Taliban or to American aggression. He places the reader in rooms devastated by suicide bombers in Iraq following the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
His passion for Africa’s beauty has the ability to make one want to book a flight to Kenya. But, by the next paragraph, he’s got readers changing their minds as he breaks down scenes of tribal genocide following a rigged election.
The author also demonstrates an impressive ability to make readers feel what he felt in some of his most trying times in his career. Gettleman was taken hostage by insurgent groups in Iraq, arrested as a young traveler in Tanzania and taken as political prisoner with his wife and coworker, Courtenay Gettleman, in Ethiopia. His fear for his life, freedom and safety for those around him comes through clearly in his writing.
Gettleman details his struggles to remain faithful to Courtenay while living in warzones on the opposite side of the planet from his wife where he questions whether or not he will safely make it to the next day. These situations of unfaithfulness to Courtenay nearly ripped apart their relationship.
“Love Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War and Survival” is a mustread for journalists hoping to cover conflicts in lands far from their homes. It operates as a handbook on what potential hazards exist, what horrors war brings and the stress it places on the person covering the conflict and their loved ones at home worrying for their safety. It also offers an example of the life that can be created for a war reporter and the positives that come from covering conflicts, such as the relationships, experiencing different cultures and personal growth that comes from stepping far, far out of his or her comfort zone.
It is also a useful read for aspiring professionals. Gettleman details the long and arduous journey of getting to one’s idea of a professional pinnacle. It is a journey packed with obstacles, dead ends and detours — not the easy road some might imagine. And as he writes, it is often a road taken solo. “If you’re working hard and lonely, or traveling a lot and lonely, or even chasing down a dream and lonely, you’re still, at the heart of it, just lonely.”
Gettleman’s work offers readers insights into the life of a war correspondent many would never think of — immense danger as well as equally immense reward. His story is relatable to many regardless of age, profession or relationship status and is a must-read for those aspiring to cover conflict far away from the ones they hold dear.