Blues for the White Man first appeared in 2019 in the Netherlands as Wiegelied voor de witte man, but the book is no lullaby for white angst or the besieged white male. Rather, this consistently well-written, deeply engaging, often rather poignant work of non-fiction is an attempt to understand the blues as they resonate through different expressions of black pain, both in the US and in South Africa.
De Vries is a respected Dutch writer and journalist who has lived in South Africa for the past 20 years. Rather than writing as an outsider about South Africa, De Vries writes from a truly interesting place, as a kind of outsider within. But as he travels to various US states to do his research – involving a lot of fieldwork, tricky conversations, and reading writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates – things get unpredictable and engaging.