Travel Lit Review: Passport Diaries by Tamara T. Gregory

“Whether you’re sitting by the pool or on the beach, it’s the perfect summer read. I couldn’t put it down.” –Gabrielle Union

I couldn’t agree more with this quote I found on the back cover of Passport Diaries, a novel I discovered through Twitter (shoutout to @monicalwilliams!). I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a semi-biographical travel-related novel and this summer I’m on a mission to read any and every piece of travel literature written by someone of color. Enter Passport Diaries. This book took me all of a day to read. I literally devoured it. It was an easy read, but it was so much fun and I really felt like I was with my homegirl (or the protagonist) Kia as she journeyed through London, Paris, and Mykonos. I say “homegirl” because Kia’s voice is so clear and so real. She’s a successful lawyer from L.A., 30-something, single, and ready to celebrate her next birthday internationally. And much like me, she’d rather go on a trip solo than cancel it because other people changed their minds, didn’t want to go, flaked, whatever (although it took a little prodding by her travel agent). But really, you can’t wait on someone else to live your life. I feel you Kia!

I had no idea what to expect when I opened up the first page, but couldn’t help but smile when I recognized Kia’s voice as that of, well… my homegirl. For example, take this passage I came across within the first couple of pages:

“Every black woman has beauty-shop horror stories. It’s our cross to bear. It’s like going to church. We know we have to go, even when we don’t feel like it. Afterwards, though we feel like a different person, like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. But, good God, why does it have to take so long? Does the paster really have to take up two collections? Does the hairdresser really have to double-book appointments? Inquiring-minded people with a life really want to know.”

I could also relate to Kia’s frustration with the lack of traveling or international awareness of our fellow countrymen. When the book was published (2004), only 16% of Americans had a passport, which means we’re making progress, no? To that figure Kia remarks, “It seems we have a strong desire to rule the world; we just don’t want to travel it.” You can say that again. Just like all travel-related fiction, Passport Diaries, not only tells a cute story, but it also makes me want to dust off my passport.

Definitely give this one a read, it’s light fiction, not too deep, will take you a weekend at the most and will have you laughing out loud and wanderlusting it up all at the same time. And Tamara T. Gregory gets bonus points because she details Kia’s itinerary in the back of the book. So you can relive Passport Diaries by staying at the same places, eating at the same restaurants, and visiting the same attractions. Click the image above to find the book on Amazon – or do like me and hit up your local library. 🙂 Enjoy!

Rating: 3.5/5

If anyone else out there has read Passport Diaries, what did you think? And what are some other books out there for me to check out?

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6 thoughts on “Travel Lit Review: Passport Diaries by Tamara T. Gregory

  1. I read it, however, I really didn’t like the main character. She irked me to no end. On the plus side though, the book explored Paris, London, and Greece. I have never been to Greece, but from the author’s description, I had no problem visualizing the scenery. I really liked that the book encouraged women to travel and not to wait on friends to go places.

    Almost concurrently while reading this book, I was reading another one entitled Kinky Gazpacho. I would recommend that book. It’s an autobiography about a black girl who grew up in a predominantly white environment and then eventually goes to Spain, meets someone, etc. You should check it out.

    If you don’t care whether or not the protagonist is black or female, then I’d also recommend:
    Driving over Lemons (Chris Stewart)
    A Parrot in the Pepper Tree (ibid)
    I’ll Never Be French (Mark Greenside)

  2. Hey Ariane! Lol What irked you most about Kia? I’ve read (and reviewed) Kinky Gazpacho. I really liked that one, too. Check out the review and see if you agree!

    I’ve never heard of the other three but will definitely check them out. Thank you!

    Deidre

    • I don’t think I could express it any better than a poster did on Amazon’s site. I really hate superficial head nods to religion which the book was rife with. I aslo hated how superficial she was. It was unbelievably grating to me. Finally, I couldn’t stand the need to constantly remind the reader that she was black. It was like the reader was beaten over the head with that.
      Apart from that though, I read the book several times. I rather liked Drew and I thought the dialogue between the two characters was extremely witty.

    • The first two are about life in Spain. After I lived there, I kind of got obsessed with the place and started reading all the travelogues about the place I could find. Chris Stewart is a great great writer.

      • Will definitely check them out! I’m so like that when it comes to places I’ve been/lived in. And not just with travelogues but all kinds of writing, films and music, too. Currently obsessed with Brazil (will start reading Samba by Alma Guillermoprieto when I get back)!

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