A frequent pitfall of travel writing is the dull “I-did-this-then-I-did-that” diary narrative.
In other words, since I was there, the journey must be all about me.
So I was struck when I read This Is Paradise by Suzanne Strempek-Shea, which manages to escape the dual tyrannies of chronology and narcissism that commonly afflict writing about travel. Though the author travels to Malawi, Ireland, and the Eastern States Exposition near the author’s home in western Massachusetts, there’s nary an “I” to be found. Just a cold, clear eye, observing, reporting details: an old African woman “with gaps in her line of teeth, [who] wears a pink T-shirt that proclaims ‘Thank God I’m Cute.'” Or the fact that in Malawi female breasts are “often displayed as casually as an elbow.”