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LOVE IN THE DRIEST SEASON

A FAMILY MEMOIR

Love in the Driest Season, a 2004 memoir, tells the story of how Neely’s years as a foreign correspondent, particularly covering war and violent conflict, led to the adoption of his elder daughter from an AIDS-decimated orphanage in Zimbabwe.

It was named one of the 25 Best Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly, the American Bookseller’s Association, the New York City Public Library and others. It won the Inspirational Memoir of the Year from the Books for a Better Life Foundation and the Most Popular Debut from Bookbrowse.com. It won other recognition from the Christopher Foundation, Border’s, Barnes and Noble, Reader’s Digest, Elle Magazine and others.

American University and Concordia College selected the book as required reading for all incoming first-year students as a means of opening a discussion about race, family and international affairs. The book was prominently featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” the Diane Rehm Show, Essence Magazine. Still selling steadily a decade after publication, it has been published in the U.K., Germany and Brazil, and has twice been optioned for film development in Los Angeles.

PRAISE & REVIEWS

“A gorgeous mix of family memoir and reportage that traverses the big issues of politics, racism and war.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Tucker maintains a sense of immediacy throughout the book…utterly heartfelt and truly inspiring.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Enthralling…interspersed with recollections of the horrific scenes of carnage Tucker witnessed and covered, the struggle for Chipo forces consideration of the drive to save one child while many are dying…wholeheartedly recommended.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“An extraordinary book of immense feeling and significant social relevance. Love in the Driest Season challenges anyone — even those numbed by the world’s abundant cruelty — not to care.”
The Washington Post

Driest

“A triumph of heart and will.”
O Magazine

“Using beautiful prose, Neely Tucker…tells of being assigned to cover Africa, falling in love with a Zimbabwean baby girl named Chipo, and the ordeal that followed he and his wife’s decision to adopt the child. The story is an extraordinary exploration into Zimbabwean culture and the power of love.”
Chicago Tribune

“(A story) not just of adoption, but of deliverance.”
Reader’s Digest

“Tucker’s considerable journalistic talents contribute to the quiet, often understated drama of his story…in the end, we are left neither with great hope nor complete despair for the children of Zimbabwe, and for the human capacity to make a difference. Rather, we are likely to finish Love in the Driest Season with a clear, more sobering sense of the task ahead.”
Miami Herald

“Tucker is a powerful writer. Around Chipo’s story he loops a gritty depiction of Africa: the war in Rwanda, the U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi, and above all Robert Mugabe’s governance of Zimbabwe — the bureaucracy, the brutality, the greed and the fear.”
Houston Chronicle

“Neely writes of those rare moments in life when ‘everything changes and you find yourself swept along in a series of events that are beyond your measure.’ His memoir will sweep you along, too.”
Christian Science Monitor

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Love

“It’s a testament to Tucker’s abilities as a journalist that this book…reads like a thriller.”
National Post (Canada)

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“Because the book is about parents as well as the child, it’s about race and change and the South. Because it’s set in the epicenter of the world AIDS epidemic, it’s about orphans and a mortality rates…that rose 700 percent in a decade. Because he’s a reporter, it’s about stories and events and history. It’s lyrical, gruesome, droll, poignant, devastating and hopeful.”
–Neal Rubin, The Detroit News

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“An almost unbelievable tale of bureaucracy, lunacy and love. Yet it resonates….the suspense is stomach-wrenching…his voice is definitely his own. It is the story of a man outrunning his demons. It is the story of a country’s descent into horror. And it is the story of all the other abandoned children in Zimbabwe.”
The Orlando Sentinel

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“Taut, dramatic and moving…probably the most politically powerful piece he will ever write.”
The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

“A unique book that stands to spark an awareness of Africa and AIDS in a way that scores of newspaper articles have not…Like ‘Philadelphia,’ the movie that gave many Americans a personal connection to AIDS in the United States, Tucker’s book allows readers to connect with a huge problem by focusing on its human details.”
United Press International

“This memoir, however, is a much larger story, addressing issues of race, culture and values both in Africa and the United States. The book also provides keen insight into what it was like to be the only American journalist (not to mention an American journalist trying to adopt a Zimbabwean child) in a country that had recently declared its hatred for foreign journalists.”
Charlotte Observer

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The bureaucrat was not a happy man, and it didn't take long to understand that I was the source of his irritation. Richard Tambadini was a senior officer in Zimbabwe's Department of Immigration Control. In May 1997, in a drab office in a dreary government building known as Liquenda House, he looked over my papers. He was slow, careful of speech, and so disdainful he seldom looked up.
'You have sent your belongings here ahead of yourself,' he said, sounding as if he were reading from an indictment. 'You presume that we will give you a work permit. You think little black Zimbabwe needs big white American men like you.'
He paused and looked out the window at downtown Harare. A car alarm was going off on the street below, the repeated bleating of its horn drifting above the sound of midmorning traffic.
I shifted in my hard-back chair. This was becoming embarrassing. Vita and I had packed up our belongings from our previous posting in Warsaw, Poland, a few weeks earlier. The crate had to be trucked to Gdansk, wait for a ship, then be carried across the Baltic Sea down to Amsterdam, transferred to another cargo ship, then sailed down the coast of Europe, the entire West African coast, around the southern tip of Cape Town, and on to the South African port of Durban. Then it had to be transferred to a rail car and hauled to Zimbabwe. The shipping clerk had said eight weeks at best; perhaps three or four months. My predecessor in Harare had assured me that the Zimbabwean government would issue my work permit as a foreign correspondent long before then.
The crate made it in three weeks.
Now I was in Harare, trying to explain to Tambadini why this unexpected delivery did not constitute an act of ugly American hubris.
'Mr. Tambadini,' I said in an attempt to lighten the situation, 'I'm five foot seven inches, and I don't think anybody has ever said I tried to act like a big--'
'We have just met, Mr. Tucker, and yet I know your kind very well,' he cut me off, looking at his fingernails. 'You come from America, a country that disparages black people. You are a rich man. You come here, you see poor little Zimbabwe, where even the people who administer the government are black, and you have assumed that we need you. You think we are so grateful to have you among us that you think we will exempt you from our laws. It is the way of the white man in Africa.' His tone had changed to an icy disdain.
'So we have a system for people like you. We impound your goods in customs until you are approved, at the rate of a hundred U.S. dollars per day. If we decide to approve your application--and this could take months--then you will pay us and you may receive your goods. But you will pay us, Mr. Tucker, for your arrogance.'
He was making a speech, and I got the idea it wasn't the first time, but I was still disconcerted. His insistence on characterizing a routine transit mix-up as a deliberate racial slight was unsettling, and the idea that I was a rich man might have been amusing in another context. But telling my editors they were about to be fined several thousand dollars was not a prospect I relished. So I took a deep breath and ate humble pie.
'Sir, if my company or I have made assumptions, I am terribly sorry, but they are not the assumptions you say. My paper, the Detroit Free Press, has been here seventeen years, the longest of any American media company. We have been in Zimbabwe since independence, since black Zimbabweans seized control of their own country. When every other American newspaper left to go to South Africa after apartheid, my newspaper stayed here, in a country that is ninety-nine percent black. The city I report for is the most predominantly black metropolis in America. It is seventy-five percent black. The managing editor of my newspaper, the man who sent me here, is a black American. The black lady waiting in the hallway, the one with the dreadlocks and the blue dress, is my wife. If my paper, my predecessor, or I thought it was necessary for me to come here to apply for a work permit months ago, I would have done so. It is unfortunate this shipment has arrived so quickly. But it is not for the reasons you suggest.'

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Excerpted from Love in the Driest Season by Neely Tucker, pages 7-13. Copyright© 2004 by Neely Tucker. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.