Named one of the 20 Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2011 by The Huffington Post
"[A] polymorphous delight that always retains at its core the notion of identity: how it is constructed, how it is thrust upon us, how we can change it....Though Phillips writes specifically here about racism and the experiences of immigrants, his cogent argument is equally applicable to the climate in which we find ourselves."
—The Independent (UK)
With the elegance and maturity of a prize-winning author . . . Phillips lives, breathes, and masterfully teases into prose the singular dilemma of the outsider.
The Boston Globe
[Phillips is] an insightful and sympathetic chronicler of race, British identity, and the immigrant experience.
The Christian Science Monitor
[Phillips] writes wonderfully crafted, deeply meditative treatises on the black experience in a global and historical sense . . . . [He is] intellectual and reflective but always interesting and informative.
Quarterly Black Review
In these nearly 40 essays on migration, literature, and politics, novelist Phillips (A Distant Shore) revisits his youth in Leeds, recalls visits with other writers (e.g., Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin), recollects travels in disparate lands (Israel, France, Sierra Leone, Belgium), and meditates on the perspectives of the displacedexiles, refugees, immigrants. He reassesses writers as diverse as Lafcadio Hearn, Claude McKay, and Shusaku Endo, along with a number of British writers. While most essays are compelling, two groupings stand out: "Beginners" for what it shares about Phillips's writing process, and "Homeland Security," the book's most memorable section, which moves from a personal and very moving account of September 11 to a blistering account of the "discriminatory legislation enacted in [its] wake" and the "changes in the national mood" that threaten American pluralism. All of the essays, regardless of topic, reflect upon Phillips's "triple heritage""British, African diasporan, Caribbean"and brim with curiosity and cosmopolitanism.
A collection of essays on the themes of race, the African diaspora, otherness and identity, from a Caribbean-born, British-raised, and United States–based writer with a sharp eye for the tensions of modern society.
In what could be seen as a sequel to A New World Order: Essays (2001), Phillips, who is better known as a novelist (In the Falling Snow, 2009, etc.), again explores issues of migration and shares his insights into writers and their role in shaping their world. Written over nearly two decades and seemingly for a variety of publications, these highly personal musings open with Phillips's childhood in Leeds, where for a time he was the only black child in his school. For a Muslim newcomer, Ali, the difference was culture and religion. Though Phillips found he was "being coloured English," he saw that Ali remained an outsider. "Distant Shores" contains six pieces on his perceptions and experiences in both Europe and Africa. Europe, he writes, is no longer white and no longer Judeo-Christian, and it never will be again. However, with the help of literature as a bulwark against intolerance, societies can make the necessary transition and transform themselves. The longest section, titled "Outside In," looks at writers in exile—e.g., James Baldwin in France, Ha Jin in the United States and Chinua Achebe in Canada. The four essays in "Homeland Security," written between 2001 and 2006, show Phillips' disappointment over the failure of America to live up to its image as a land of freedom and equality, but also his hope that storytelling will restore the spirit of the country. Profiles, movie and book reviews and autobiographical and journalistic sketches complete the collection.
Although linked by the author's sense of history and his awareness of being an outsider, these pieces seem uncomfortable together, as though forced to migrate from earlier settings to this new home.