The Book That Changed My Life: A Geography of Subsaharan Africa

In 1964, while a graduate student at Florida State University, I bought a copy of A Geography of Subsaharan Africa, by Harm J. de Blij. This was not a required course book. My interest in Africa had been kindled in a two-year period when my family lived in Morocco. The de Blij book applied a thematic approach to individual countries. This design opened many doors to understanding and researching the African continent. After reading it, Africa became the focus of my professional development. African Studies was prominent at Michigan State University which was the academic home of Dr. Harm J. de Blij.

In the fall of 1965, I left for East Lansing. I made contact with Dr. de Blij and began a long and productive academic relationship with him. He recruited me to travel to Kenya in the spring of 1966 to carry out preliminary research for him. Later in 1968-1969, I was one of three doctoral students who went to Kenya to initiate Ph.D. research there under de Blij’s sponsorship. It is accurate to say that my whole life changed as a result of reading de Blij’s A Geography of Subsaharan Africa. My research, travel, and teaching experiences, as well as an abiding respect for Harm de Blij–the teacher, writer, and most importantly, good friend–all came from reading this book.

—Andrew A. Nazzaro