A Coastline Is an Immeasurable Thing ventures through the physical and mythical landscapes of Daniel's upbringing. Against the backdrop of a migratory adolescence, she reckons with race, religious conflict, culture clash, and a multiplicity of possible identities.
... captivating and lyrical ... Mary-Alice Daniel reaches boldly into her past across Nigeria, England and the United States to inspect the pressures and nuances of mythology, ancestry, colonization and religion ... Daniel embraces the complexity of being simultaneously drawn to and repelled by our roots ... In asking what makes a person, a place, a family or a tribe, Daniel dives deep into language, including gorgeously rendered etymologies of her name, the names of places she’s lived and those of the entities who form her personal cosmology of idols, like Queen Calafia, the fictional Black empress after whom California, Daniel’s current home, is named ... Daniel is a poet, and on occasion her observations tilt a paragraph abruptly toward free-form verse. But her writing remains striking, discerning and haunting ... Read this book once for the furious beauty of Daniel’s prose. Read it again for a master class in how we might finally come to tell our stories on our own terms.
Mary-Alice Daniel’s wondrous new work A Coastline Is an Immeasurable Thing: A Memoir Across Three Continents isn’t typical of most memoirs that seek a solid reckoning of sorts. Author Mary-Alice Daniel remains mired in uncertainties ... A poetic rendering of a woman in search of herself ... Daniel is a keen observer ... One can’t help but by overwhelmed by the exquisiteness of her prose, which we sense has been pulled from the deepest regions of her heart ... Although we sense a burgeoning feminist sensibility, there is a part of her that remains determinably old-fashioned ... She leaves questions swirling around mid-air almost as if she believes answering them might risk massacring something sacred ... And it is this insistence on keeping herself in check that pulls us more closely to her. Mary-Alice Daniel is an exquisitely elegant young writer.
There’s a risk of historical slog with memoirs involving migration and movement, tasked as they are with ferrying entire countries through the narrative like overstuffed luggage. It’s a rare work that manages to not lose its readers in a trek through myth and superstition, politics and prejudice. A Coastline Is an Immeasurable Thing...is one such gem ... Daniel is a master of place and mood. She forgoes the usual categorization of countries in favor of her own uniquely broad perspective: the inside-outsider, equipped with a poet’s unclouded ability to see ... Pockets of diaspora arise in the gregarious, joyous tenor of overlapping conversations in a room ... Coastline is gloriously fluid, willing to challenge that which might appear as a given.