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A 'recovering writer' - his first novel having been littered with typos and selling only fifty copies - Frank Jasper is plucked from obscurity in Port Jumbo in Nigeria by Mrs Kirkpatrick, a white woman and wife of an American professor, to attend the William Blake Program for Emerging Writers in Boston. Once there, however, it becomes clear that he and the other Fellows are expected to meet certain obligations as representatives of their 'cultures'. His colleagues, veterans of residencies in Europe and America, know how to play up to the stereotypes expected of them, but Frank isn't interested in being the African Writer at William Blake - any anyway, there is another Fellow, Barongo Akello Kabumba, who happily fills that role. Eventually expelled from the fellowship for 'non-performance' and 'non-participation', Frank Jasper sets off on trip to visit his father's college friend in Nebraska.