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A Drop of Midnight: A Memoir

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World-renowned hip-hop artist Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité’s vivid and intimate journey through his own and his family’s history—from South Carolina slavery to twenty-first-century Sweden.

Born to interracial American parents in Sweden, Jason Diakité grew up between worlds—part Swedish, American, black, white, Cherokee, Slovak, and German, riding a delicate cultural and racial divide. It was a no-man’s-land that left him in constant search of self. Even after his hip-hop career took off, Jason fought to unify a complex system of family roots that branched across continents, ethnicities, classes, colors, and eras to find a sense of belonging.

In A Drop of Midnight, Jason draws on conversations with his parents, personal experiences, long-lost letters, and pilgrimages to South Carolina and New York to paint a vivid picture of race, discrimination, family, and ambition. His ancestors’ origins as slaves in the antebellum South, his parents’ struggles as an interracial couple, and his own world-expanding connection to hip-hop helped him fashion a strong black identity in Sweden.

What unfolds in Jason’s remarkable voyage of discovery is a complex and unflinching look at not only his own history but also that of generations affected by the trauma of the African diaspora, then and now.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published November 7, 2016

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Jason Timbuktu Diakité

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5 stars
1,167 (32%)
4 stars
1,516 (42%)
3 stars
747 (20%)
2 stars
126 (3%)
1 star
44 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 374 reviews
Profile Image for Hope.
375 reviews15 followers
February 4, 2020
Powerful, visceral, engaging.

This was one of those ‘universes aligning’ things...when an old white woman stumbles across a book by a young Black Swedish rapper, and even more improbably, is intrigued and decides to read it. And pretty much read it straight through without stopping. This is a strong, raw, urgent book. I have been moved - perhaps changed - by it. And I will be pondering those things for some time to come. I might even listen to some Swedish rap.
Profile Image for Abbie | ab_reads.
603 reviews451 followers
October 23, 2020
(#gifted @amazonpublishing) I wasn't familiar with Jason Diakité when Amazon Crossing very kindly gifted me a box of their latest translated offerings, but I was instantly interested in his memoir when I read the synopsis. Born in Sweden to a white mother and a Black father, he grew up Swedish, American, Black, white, with Cherokee, Slavic and German roots too. Even after his career as a rapper took off, 'Timbuktu' still didn't feel like he'd got to grips with his sense of self. Diakité decided to go to America to find out more about his father's side of the family, travelling to South Carolina and New York to talk to relatives and learn more about his Black roots.
Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles, I found this memoir slow to start but extremely compelling once Diakité gets further into his story. It's interesting to read a little bit about Blackness in a country that is not the US or the UK. I think a lot of white people see countries like Sweden and Norway as benign, happy places to live, but of course they have their own issues with racism, as Diakité learned growing up and always being one of the only Black or brown bodies in a room.
But the majority of the book is actually centred around the US and Diakité's family there. I learned a lot, for instance I wasn't aware of 'food deserts'. These are towns in the US where residents don't have easy access to fresh food (and often lots of fast food restaurants instead), leading to high obesity and diabetes rates among communities, very often Black communities.
Diakité does a really good job relaying the complexity of his family life, including frustrations over differences in political opinion. There were some places where I was confused about what time period we were in, but overall it's a great read (even though I always find it weird to call someone's memoir an enjoyable read - you know what I mean).
I think anyone who enjoyed Morgan Jerkins' Wandering in Strange Lands might enjoy this one too!
Profile Image for Brian Andrews.
152 reviews
February 18, 2020
Fascinating book that tells stories from Diakite's own life, his parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Drives home the point that racism and slavery have an on-going effect. Made me think about how I'm a product of my parents, who were strongly influenced by their parents . . . and so on. Then you do the math and realize that Diakite's family tree is, relatively speaking, recently affected by slavery and racism. And not just that, but how the oppressors' upbringing is "recently affected" by slavery and racism - they're carrying on what they learned from their ancestors. Is it any wonder racism is such an issue in the U.S. (and worldwide)? It really wasn't that long ago that the events related in this book happened - whites killing blacks with no repercussions, blacks as second class citizens under the (white) law of the land, blacks as sharecroppers, and going all the way back (actually not that long ago) to blacks being slaves.

I recently argued with an acquaintance that he is culturally ignorant, because he thought everyone has the same opportunity and are in the same position to succeed. I argued that just by being white and raised middle class, he has an advantage. Reading this book, doing the math on timing, and realizing how much my parents influenced me (and theirs before them) clarified further for me that we don't all have it the same. We don't have the same opportunities. Culture and history definitely impact us.

This book isn't preachy - the (true) stories are interesting. But you connect the dots and it is enlightening (at least for me).

Only 4 stars because the narrative drifts during the last 1/3 of the book.
Profile Image for Linda Nordgren.
89 reviews3 followers
December 21, 2016
Gillade denna! Trist med så himla mycket korrekturfel i den dock, stör läsningen oerhört mycket. Men den är ändå värd en fyra så det så!
Profile Image for 〰️Beth〰️.
736 reviews58 followers
February 29, 2020
Never spoilers

The entire book meanders with vignettes of stories about Diakité’s family history. He really does not hit his writing flow until about a third of the way into the book. There is also some confusion at the beginning regarding 2015. I am not sure if it a typo but there seems to be a discrepancy in timing (nit picky maybe but I found it confusing enough to go back and reread the first few chapters.

Overall it is a wonderful introspection of a man trying to find and accept his identity. Being 2/5 African-American 2/5 European-American and 1/5 Native-American growing up in Sweden. The book focuses on his African-American heritage. I would have liked more on his Native American ancestors and even his European American’s immigration. I know it is hard to find records for slaves and natives so there are things he may never find.

It was interesting to see the evolution of African American history thru the lens of someone growing up in Scandinavia.

I would definitely recommend this book
November 6, 2017
I picked this book because I wanted to learn more about racism in Sweden. Turns out the book focuses on US history, although not the reason for my rating. The narrative is jumpy, incoherent and at times even repetitative. It makes it difficult to keep a timeline. As others mention there is a lot of namedropping without any summary of the various authors work or any further reading suggestions. Diakité mentions a meeting with Black Lives Matter activist Mckesson without rewarding him a single quote. He will however let an octogenarian rant for pages about his love for Trump, Putin and ISIS. Regarding his descriptions of Ms Alluette I can just recommend he reads "Jordens Herrar". For an interesting read about etnicity and identity that takes place in Sweden I recommend Marjaneh Bakhtiari's "Kan du säga schibbolet?". I'm sure there are far more enlightened narratives on US history out there. The search continues...
Profile Image for Gabriella Andén fd rehbinder.
62 reviews2 followers
November 17, 2016
Denna kommer helt klart hamna på top 3 bästa böcker lästa/lyssnade på under 2016. Jag känner att det är en viktig bok att läsa om man vill jobba mot rasism, förstå hur rasism drabbar och hur den strukturella rasismen ser ut. Detta var en bok jag behövde för att återfå lite energi att orka fortsätta med Tillsammansskapet .För övrigt hoppas jag att Jason kommer att skriva mer, för han beskriver sin far och deras stundtals krångliga relation med ord som förmedlar en sådan värme och kärlek. Tror, och hoppas, att detta är början på ett stort författarskap!
Profile Image for Julia.
39 reviews48 followers
April 9, 2018
Klarade inte av att avsluta. Cool människa med tuff bakgrund men han är inte en författare. Jag orkade inte läsa igenom 300 s av en man som inte kan skriva en bok som hänger ihop. Fick även panik när han var tvungen att upprepa allt han tycker är bra fakta om hans familj eller förflutna 20 gånger.
Profile Image for Kela Calvin.
Author 7 books42 followers
March 18, 2020

I loved this memoir!!! I usually don't read memoirs, but this piqued my interest. The loved how the author was able to trace his family lineage through travels, interviews and conversation with family. Through his life experiences, he has learned to embrace his ethnic backgrounds and skin color. This novel was truly unique. Great read!!!
Profile Image for Siria.
1,749 reviews1,266 followers
February 18, 2022
This was absolutely one of those books that you find yourself reading by happenstance—I had never heard of the Swedish rapper and hip-hop artist Jason Diakité before picking up A Drop of Midnight, although he is apparently quite successful. Here he writes about what it was like growing up as the son of a Black American man and a white American woman in Sweden during the 70s/80s. Diakité's experiences with growing up biracial in a very ethnically homogeneous country and his discovery of rap are intertwined with reflections on his fraught relationship with his father and memories of the trip he took to the American Deep South to find out something about the experiences of his enslaved ancestors.

I found this an interesting and thoughtful read, and respected how much Diakité was clearly working to grapple with the complexities of his family's past. (And wow, it is complex and full of trauma. For instance, in the 1950s, his grandmother sent her children, including Diakité's father, from New York City to Nigeria to be raised in what she saw as a more uplifting and Afrocentric environment—by themselves.) However, it's a little disjointed and repetitive, and I felt that Diakité rarely settled into enough of a groove to let him go deep on a topic. Still, an engaging read from an unusual perspective.
Profile Image for Melina Roy.
90 reviews5 followers
April 25, 2021
Det tog mig lite tid men har äntligen lyssnat klart. Jason är en fantastisk berättare och hans uppläsning var underbar

Enormt fängslande biografi om mellanförskap, hälftenskap, dubbelskap. Om rasism, fördomar, USA, Sverige, Nigeria. Om rapmusik, familjer och kärlek.

Är väldigt glad över att ha lyssnat på denna!! Rekommenderar verkligen
Profile Image for celia.
92 reviews6 followers
February 12, 2021
Oerhört viktig historia som krävs att upprepas om och om igen. Timbuktu är väldigt bra på att sätta ord på det han berättar och gör bra jämförelser. Däremot tyckte jag språket var inkonsekvent på sina ställen och jag hängde inte alltid med i vilken ordning saker och ting skedde. Men det är ändå en bok jag rekommenderar att man läser.
Profile Image for Fredrik Öjbro.
49 reviews
August 7, 2021
Vackert språk. Viktigt ämne som vävs in med hans egen familjeberättelse. Personlig historia varvad med historiska avgörande händelser i USA historia. Läsvärd!!!
Profile Image for John Hatley.
1,166 reviews190 followers
June 5, 2017
This is one of the most unusual books I have ever read. After reading in the past year or two books by American authors Ta-Nehisi Coates, Paul Beatty and James Baldwin, I was amazed by this book not least because it tells the same story, but this time the story is being told by Swedish author Jason Diakité. It is the same story, but it is also a very different story. Every human being is unique. Read it!
Profile Image for Isabellesbokhylla.
125 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2022
Jason Diakité (som de flesta känner igen som rapparen "Timbuktu") växer upp med ömsom förakt mot sin egen hudfärg, ömsom stolthet för densamma. Han söker sina rötter och boken tar en med på en resa från slaveriets USA till folkhemmets Sverige. Boken ringar in rotlöshet, etnicitet, utanförskap, rasism och komplicerade familjerelationer.

Ska jag ge någon kritik är det att berättelsen inte följer en röd tråd utan hoppar en del fram och tillbaka vilket inte behöver vara ett bekymmer, men för mig blev lite rörigt att hänga med ibland.

Lyssnade på denna som ljudbok. Något som verkligen ger plus i kanten är Jasons egen inläsning. Språket blir så klockrent när han berättar utifrån hur det är tänkt att låta, oavsett akademiska uttryck eller engelska slang.
Profile Image for Donna Bijas.
891 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2020
4 stars. What started as a simile ridden memoir, ended with an uplifting dialogue by the author who was half White, half Swedish, half American and half Black. He talks about the guilt and dysfunction leveled on him and his family for generations and centuries. At least in Sweden where he resided most of his life he was able to work and live and love as he wanted. He and his parents, who did divorce, remained a big part of his life. The end of the book was wonderful where Jason states “My roots which make my skin anything but White and my hair not totally straight. It’s those drops of midnight that make all the difference.”
Profile Image for Signe Edström.
10 reviews
September 13, 2022
3,5 stjärnor

Jag vet inte. Tyckte att den var väldigt intressant i början, då han berättade om den rasism hans familj men även han utsatts för. Även hur han under sin uppväxt försökt förstå vem han är

Men det fanns vissa delar jag tyckte var lite väl långdragna och fick mig att tappa fokus. Att nämna massa namn är viktigt, men det är svårt att veta vilka de alla är.

Men jag tycker ändå att man borde läsa denna bok, då det är lite av en tankeställare
18 reviews
February 4, 2020

I began this book hoping to learn about the mixed heritage of the author. It became a book I had to force myself to finish. The author almost completely ignored his Slovak and Cherokee heritage - he seems to only want to focus on his black forebears. He describes their experiences ,but they are theirs, not his. Throughout, there was a self-pitying attitude, and a coldness that made it difficult to feel any rapport with the author. He is very critical of others, but tolerant of himself. His descriptions of his road trips to the US deliver occasional insights. There is a fair amount of name-dropping of authors and activists.
102 reviews2 followers
July 18, 2017
A little haphazard in it's structure, a little repetitive, but hearfelt and interesting. Reading this was like having a meandering conversation with a friend which made it a little slow, but then again there's nothing wrong with slowing down sometimes.

lt's so easy to forget how much our history - collectively and individually - influences us, generation after generation after generation. This book provided a moving combination of the author's and his family's personal struggle with the wider struggle of the slaves and their descendants. lt held a mirror up to parts of the USA that are generally hidden from view. And it really makes you wonder just how much your life is affected by the colour of the skin you were born with.
Profile Image for Warren.
307 reviews2 followers
August 6, 2020
"...I think about how every human, from the time they’re born until the time they die, is a universe of memories, dreams, plans, sorrows, desires, and convictions."

This book is beautiful and heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. Hearing things from Jason's perspective, learning about his family and upbringing, and the struggles that they endured filled me with so many emotions.

Just read the damn book.

And Jason, if you ever read this, thank you for sharing your story. If I can make one request of you, I ask that you get your dad's book republished so we can all hear the story of his childhood. You reference his book a few times, and I'd love to read it. Thanks again, and I hope you'll continue to write.
18 reviews2 followers
March 13, 2020
I really enjoyed this book, but there were also parts that I struggled to get through. As a white parent of a black child seeing how Daikite struggled with his racial identity has helped me further understand some of the issues my child may face.

I know at times that it may seem like racism and segregation happened in the far off past, however Diakite shows that this isn't the case and we really are not that far removed from segregation and racism is still out there rearing its ugly head.

Profile Image for Lina Blank.
6 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2017
Lite trögstartad, men han skriver med ett vackert språk som tilltalar mig. Jason bjuder på en historia om sin identitet och sin relation till sin släkthistoria som stundvis är väldigt rörande. Helt klart läsvärd.
Profile Image for Clas Falk.
104 reviews
March 13, 2017
Litterärt och story som ett sommarprat i bokform, men med alla referenser och all name-dropping höjer den sig ett snäpp, och blir en guide till mer allmänbildning. För fortsatta studier och livslångt lärande.
Profile Image for Sara.
231 reviews
August 29, 2017
I Think this was a a very intresting book. the way it jumps between stories bit Always moving forward. the part of reflection over life colors and diffrent ways of interaction. it was a book that made me reflect on behavior and thougts.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 374 reviews

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