Author JR Alila’s REBELS (a novel)


In author Joseph R Alila’s new novel, REBELS [ISBN 13: 978-1548693435], set in Kenya’s 1970s and 1980s, a widowed bride (Betty Kinda), flees from the custody of her parents, leaving her in-laws, who must give her a replacement husband before they burry her late fiancé (Mika Olongo), in an untenable situation. Reaching Kisumu City, Betty meets one Nurse Rose, an annealed widow, who empathizes with her, ‘adopts’ her, and enrolls her in a day secondary school (she is pregnant). Suddenly, tempers flare across the Nyogunde Valley, pitting Betty’s in-laws (the Ombos of Korondo Ridge) and her parents (the Kindas of Rabuor Ridge) as elders debate how the Ombos would burry and mourn their son when his widow/bride is in school tens of miles away.

Betty eventually accepts one Luka Okiya—the replacement husband her in-laws ‘post’ to her. Okiya, the Luo jater (levirate), turns out to be a perfect match with Betty; after all, he is the man whose overtures she ignored in favor of the late Olongo.

Thanks to Nurse Rose, Betty catches the metaphorical wind and flies with it, with Okiya in tow. The cultural rebels, who even ‘tie the knot’ in an unprecedented (at least on Korondo Ridge) sneak church wedding, graduate from college–Betty with a degree in law and Okiya with a degree in government—with their three sons and a daughter cheering them on!

While the Okiyas sweat it out among Kenya’s urban diaspora, raising children as they climb the academic ladder and eventually become senior government officers, back home, on Korondo Ridge, several verbal wars rage on over heritage and land.

At its core, JR Alila’s REBELS is about the modern Luo at war with her past that is not letting go easily. In this enduring, heart-warming love story, we affirm that even rebels sworn to unity can stumble. When Okiya falters, in anger, after their son Mark calls him an unthinkable name, Betty is tested to the limit. She must weigh building the legacy of her late husband (Olongo) against her continued loyalty to Okiya—the jater (levirate) who pulled her out of the spiritual cloud of her late husband and joined her in chasing a modern dream, formal education. Betty, the trained family lawyer, discovers that a Luo jater (levirate) can’t be divorced! But yes, he can be ejected. Will she do that at the expense of family unity?

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Novelist JR Alila


I am author Joseph R. Alila, a native of Kenya living in Schenectady, New York, from where I have penned thirteen novels and two epic poems. My poetry and verse address a variety of areas of the human experience, and you are welcome if you love writings that go beyond the mundane of daily life. I’m a chemist and teacher by training, and I for a while considered my writing as something recreational, something I did to pass time (as was the case in the lost scripts of the staged plays, THE FRUITLESS TREE and WHAT A HUSBAND, written in the 1980s). Thirteen novels and two poems later, learning the art of writing on my feet, the literary bug has bitten me, and friends and fans say that I’m a good novelist with strengths in the narrative and analytical forms and with a penchant for stinging dialogue. I laugh at such suggestions, but the readers may be right. Sages long gone were right in their observation that writing is like wine: an author’s output gets better with his or her age, where the wine in a bottle gets better with time in the cellar.

I started writing about what I knew well, and that was telling stories about life in a traditional Luo home, in which I grew up before I flew to national and then multinational diaspora destinations to pursue scholarly dreams. I have written extensively on my Luo people’s polygamous marriages and other cultural practices, criticizing them where criticism is due and shedding a sage’s light to put meaning to old traditions. My mournful caution against the practice of polygamy in the era of the AIDS virus came to light in SUNSET ON POLYGAMY and THE THIRTEENTH WIDOW.

My writings have tended to be anthropological–treating my subjects as actors or victims of their social, spiritual and physical environments and times. The novels, WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, SUNSET ON POLYGAMY, THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: FROM THE SUDAN TO AMERICAN POWER, NOT ON MY SKIN, BIRTHRIGHT (A LUO TRAGEDY), THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND, MAYA, and lately A FISHY MATTER and REBELS are informative anthropological treatises on peoples and their physical, spiritual, political, cultural, and social circumstances.

I must admit that when I set out to write my earlier novels, for example SUNSET ON POLYGAMY, I had no voice or agenda. My objective was to tell stories about my Luo people and my experiences as a Christian, a Luo, an African, and a world scholar uprooted from his Luo home base to chase scientific dreams abroad. But fifteen novels and two Epic Poems (RATENG’ AND BRIDE and THIRTEEN CURSES ON MOTHER AFRICA) later, I find myself increasingly speaking for the burdened and voiceless peoples wherever they are in the world:

I speak for the African women and widows (in THE THIRTEENTH WIDOW, SUNSET ON POLYGAMY, THE MILAYI CURSE, WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, and REBELS) whose perilous yokes are the marital culture and practices whose original intentions were novel, and protective (as in WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, REBELS and THE MILAYI CURSE), but which cultural practices turned spiritual death traps, from which they have struggled to escape.

I have found a mournful political voice in two of my works: In RATENG’ AND BRIDE, I visit with and relive, in poetry, Kenya’s tragic 2007 Presidential contest, pointing at errors from which the nation hasn’t recovered). In the epic poem, THIRTEEN CURSES ON MOTHER AFRICA, I mourn increasingly dependent Africa, which has become an old shadow of its pre-colonial self. Africa is inundated with perilous crises, a lot of which are due to amnesia, nature, poor leadership choices, greed, dictatorships, and brother-on-brother conflicts, with Ebony (the African Woman) and her children bearing the brunt of the deadly forces.

In THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: FROM THE SUDAN TO AMERICAN POWER–a novel inspired by and about the Obama Presidency–I endeavor to make a tortuous historical-cum-spiritual fictional march of my Luo people from their slow fifteenth-century times in Old Sudan to East Africa, only for one of us to occupy the world’s only citadel of power. If some of my predictions came to pass, they must be taken as illustrations of what thoughtful fiction (science or literary or otherwise) can achieve.
Collectively, in the novels, THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND, THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: FROM THE SUDAN TO AMERICAN POWER, and BIRTHRIGHT (A LUO TRAGEDY), I shed a sage’s torch, liberally illuminating various aspects of the Luo journey, Luo cultural practices, Luo spirituality, Luo politics, and Luo thought. No wonder, my literary breakthrough novel BIRTHRIGHT (A LUO TRAGEDY) has been a classroom text in African Anthropology and thought in universities.

Finally, the novels, NOT ON MY SKIN, THE AMERICAN POLYGAMIST, SINS OF OUR HEARTS, THE CHOIRMASTER (A SPIRITUAL TRAGEDY), and MAYA, I explore our day’s very dynamic American experience, consciousness, and attitudes at street level, inside houses of worship, and at the workplace, through the eyes of diaspora wanderer.

My readers are right, my literary journey no longer is recreational; like aged wine, it has come of age, to quote sages gone before us. Welcome, sample it, and however it tastes, let others know, and holler here on amazon.

Sunset on Polygamy: A Tragedy: Cultural practices and Disease Epidemics


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In Joseph R. Alila’s first novel, Sunset on Polygamy (ISBN 13: 9781495402135) , marital cultural lore and spirituality combine to breed a tragic confusion in a land faced with a deadly new disease epidemic, with public debates raging as to whether the killer is ancestral chira (curse) or Acute Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

I this work of fiction, Joe Ochom, a young man testing his verbal skills in the art of seduction, soon realizes that corralling an educated girl (Megan) requires more than adorning his high school blazer in the marketplace. He proves indecisive and cowardly in the battlefield—a weakness his principal competitor, polygamist Jim Kokech, exploits to the fullest.

Having crushed the young bookish competitor for the attention of Megan, suddenly faces a revolt from his four wives. Felicia, the first wife—exploits the situation to punish her “wayward husband”; she locks him out of her bedroom just when they must celebrate the planting season as the principal “spiritual co-owners” of the home. Jim’s pastoral calendar comes to a sudden halt—reminding him that Luo marital life indeed is a complex “religious journey” with the first wife as the center of worship. Suddenly, the spiritual battle among the women, symbolized by the clearly demarcated hallowed boundaries between their farms,  reaches their bedrooms. The home enters a conjugal lockdown that Jim and any of his junior wives could only breach at the risk of dire spiritual consequences. The crafty second wife, Milka, engages Jim in a believable romantic ruse that fools even Felicia. Wrought with jealousy at her archenemy, Milka, Felicia yields to Jim—prompting a stampede among the women for access to him. Jim’s male folly still thinks he’s having fun.

Baby boom! A year later, Felicia looks from the sidelines as the home welcomes three newborns, with Maria, Milka and Nyapora presenting a child each to their shared husband. Felicia has reached menopause, but instead of embracing her new physiological reality, and aging gracefully as the matriarch of her home, she becomes angry at Jim and her co-wives for “breeding like rats.” Struggling with a broiling bout of jealousy at her co-wives and nursing unpredictable desires of her husband, Felicia brews one immoral “romantic” mischief after another and nearly kills her husband while trying a cultic solution to her marital problems. Depressed, Felicia flees to the Big City to escape the shameful spectacle she is among the women of Korondo Ridge.

But Korondo Ridge has no rest; Exit Felicia, and tragedy brings home Gina—a beautiful young widow who has just returned from the Big City with the body of her late husband, George Amolo. Now, to the utter dismay of elders, Gina refuses to receive any man into her bed, arguing that her husband died of “a strange new disease”. The elders refuse to listen, asserting that George died of his father’s “chira” (curse), which only the very wise among them could cleanse. Amolo protests, saying that Malaria killed George. Concerned for the spiritual health of their Korondo House, the elders eventually convince Gina to enter a one-night “marriage” with a “Jakowiny” (a vagabond) “to settle George’s restless spirit.”  Reacting to the “technical marriage,” men troop to Gina’s house to proffer their applications, believing the vagabond (like the Biblical scapegoat), has wandered off with “chira” that killed their fellow warrior.

Tragedy! The killer malady the elders call “Chira” is AIDS—the killer the Luo aptly nickname “Ayaki”—I loot you. Gina soon develops loose morals and dispatches one man after another to his grave, their wives in tow. Tragic: Ayaki kills people and “chira,” with which it shares symptoms, gets the credit. Gina’s misleadingly healthy look, beauty, and longevity only add to the tragedy.

Felicia returns to Korondo Ridge amid the Ayaki epidemic in the land, but even the epidemic has not changed people‘s ways:, men still embrace polygamy; men still inherit sick widows, and sure, her Jim has married young Megan, capping his conquest over Joe Ochom the narrator. But as the Luo of old said, the ferocious buffalo provides the hide for a brave warrior’s shield—Jim dies holding a toxic jewel in his hands; leaving teaching lessons in vanity and immoderation.

SYNOPSES TO JR ALILA’S LITERARY WORKS


Author JR Alila 2012

1. THIRTEEN CURSES ON MOTHER AFRICA [ISBN-13-978 480277380]: JR Alila’s epic poem, THIRTEEN CURSES ON MOTHER AFRICA, highlights the cycle of maladies that continue to afflict the African continent decades after independence. The poet moans and groans for the longsuffering African woman, who continues to face the horrors of war (over cheap honor, land, oil and gems) and its victims in child soldiers; the poet mourns for the African woman, who continues to contend with the cultural consequences of killer AIDS and its surviving victims in child mothers. The poet reminds the reader that Africa still suffers in the anvil of her corrupt dictators who drink imported waters, while she roils in the curses of poverty and famine amid wealth in “black gold” (oil) and gems—a wealth that has brought nothing but the miseries of war and death to her. Mother Africa faces the new curse in globalization and free trade that has added fuel into the raging fire of corruption as her alien suitors jostle for attention. But because of globalization, Mother Africa has to live with her unreliable alien lovers, whose sugary ways have lured her children into a no-return journey into an ever-expanding diaspora—leaving her destitute and defenseless. Africa is under a continent-wide curse, so says the poet. The poet asks: In a continent where the cell phone is everywhere, why are there no passable roads and clean water? In this era of a virtual economy, why is Africa still bartering her cocoa, coffee, diamonds, and tea for cell phones in the name of free trade and globalization? It is the poet’s contention that most of Africa’s problems arise from the loss of the sense of “Africanness,”—loss of self-worth—and the greatest victim is the inept African man and the continent-wide body he dominates known as African Union.

2  NOT ON MY SKIN [ISBN-13:978143825527-9]. In JR Alila’s NOT ON MY SKIN, the all-American Harmony City is not exactly harmonious. Individualism, prejudice and arm’s length neighborliness greet Ochome–a poet and suburbanite, who has staked out his evenings in the city’s downtown cafe. Harmony City’s peace hardly is skin deep. There is a daily stalemate at the fertility clinic, and wherever Ochome turns, he sees, hears, and constantly feels souls cursing “Not on My Skin”– a protest mantra against nuances of prejudice he sees, hears and feels in the city café and beyond. The Café crowd has a few regulars who, like most urban neighbors, remain verbally unengaged individuals. But the sense of peace is often compromised by one Alex, a man considered a mad nuisance by all, but who, in reality, is the only mirror in which Harmony City perhaps can see herself. Alex is the lone gong off which the city can hear herself, the same way a child’s innocent words are the real measure of the moral quality of life in a home.
A view from the urban frontline of American life. A good read for those with the courage enough to look at the mirror of life and confront individualism.

3. MAYA [ISBN-13:9781470068677]: In MAYA, Joseph R Alila, author of “Birthright (a Luo Tragedy),” brings yet another narrative about the lives of ordinary people with human flaws, from which each of them can only run away, or ignore, at his or her own peril. Maya Boone faces a legal quandary over a death she has witnessed from her hideout on Eagle Street, Harmony, New York. First, she watches Raul, the troublesome husband from whom she is hiding, kill a bulldog. When Maya crosses Eagle Street to enquire whether the dog’s owner (Mike) is suing Raul, she instead falls in love with the heartbroken man, lures him to her bed, and even contemplates witnessing against Raul. The brief affair ends quickly because Mike becomes a victim to an enraged boyfriend’s arrow of passion. Wounded and helpless, Mike falls into the hands of a moonlighting evangelist named Booker who has a score to settle with him. There is no mercy for Mike, only a slow death, because Booker wishes to maintain his cover while moonlighting at Bar Delirium. With Mike dead, Maya’s distant past soon confronts her because, also witnessing the events leading to the murder on Eagle Street is Officer Jimmy Depuy—a child Maya abandoned at birth forty years before. Neither Raul nor Maya nor Officer Depuy knows about their shared bond. Then one Detective John unearths the blood knot linking Jimmy Depuy to the Rauls, and soon District Attorney Hess is advancing criminal motives against the trio. In MAYA, JR Alila weaves yet another intricate narrative that should appeal to those readers who seek to understand, in human character, matters beyond the mundane of daily life.

A not-so-glorious past catches up with Maya and Raul, both urbanites when Maya’s neighbor is murdered. Good detective work threatens to flip Maya from witness to suspect.

MAYA (Pitch)
Harmony City suddenly is disharmonious, catching her administrators on unsure footings. Hard economic times have dumped the old and young into Main Street. Police officers have their hands full fighting members of the Occupy Harmony Movement (OHM)—an amorphous group funded by grumpy rich men, with scores to settle against Wall Street.
Amid the OHM-engineered chaos, Officer Depuy suddenly has a personal battle to fight: he is a witness in the killing of one Mike—a man with a dubious sex life—and his dog. Then history suddenly springs a surprise—a nosey police detective discovers a blood knot that tethers Officer Depuy to two dysfunctional wealthy people of interest in the murder, but who don’t even know that he is their son.
A runaway woman, Maya Boone, has watched Raul, her troublesome husband, kill Mike’s dog. When she crosses Eagle Street to spy on Mike’s intentions against Raul, she meets a heartbroken man. They mourn together, before her empathy quickly turns into intimacy and shared lust. But tragedy befalls Mike on his return home—he encounters an enraged boyfriend’s fatal arrow of passion.
Even as District Attorney Hess has two self-confessed killers behind bars, she still is advancing criminal motives against Maya, Raul, and Officer Jimmy Depuy—a child Maya gave away at birth. Maya and Raul run to Florida, where she intends to nurse her late-life pregnancy, of controversial origin, in private. She leaves a Judge Lit and attorneys debating the merits of a full murder trial.
In MAYA, the author weaves through a modern city’s cultural fabric, gently touching every social issue of the day, to present a narrative that is steps ahead of its time. Maya should appeal to readers who seek to understand in human character matters beyond the mundane of daily life.

4. THE MILAYI CURSE [ISBN 13: 978-145281882-5]: In The Milayi Curse, Joseph R. Alila (the Author of “Sunset on Polygamy”) tells a story about one early Christian Priest’s struggles to make sense of an alien culture, fight myths and curses, and reconcile Jokamilayi-a fictional Luo (Kenyan) clan. It is a tale about spirituality, honor, betrayal, pride and wealth and uneasy kinship, as Christianity and formal education breaks class barriers, bursts myths and “turn things upside down.” Charles Milayi, a poor orphan, graduates out of middle school with excellent grades. Just when his mother has lost hope of her gifted son ever stepping into a high school, he becomes a beneficiary of “a secret hand of providence” only known to Father James O’Kilghor. Charles excels in his studies, joins college, and becomes a lawyer and a cabinet minister. He breaks through class barrier and marries none other than the Prime Minister’s daughter. But Hon. Milayi’s people remain bitterly divided along bloodlines because of a century-old curse with origins in old wars, pillage of war soils, and ancestral wealth. The endless cold war among ancestral cousins has made Father James O’Kilghor’s ministry to the Jokamilayi a trying experience, even for a man known for his controversial “Africanized” evangelizing strategies, in which active traditional priests and witch doctors are baptized before they even renounce their trades.

An old conflict between two brothers has returned to haunt their grandchildren in the new age, in which Christian Priests minister among a people struggling to walk away from their African religious past. Will Father James resolve the age-old conflict without losing a part of his soul?

5. THE AMERICAN POLYGAMIST [ISBN-13: 978144992798]: Billionaire American businessman Chief Chuki is a notable within the American high society and a venerable name in the African nation of Goldia, where he holds the highest honorary title of Chief among his Oyi people. When Chief Chuki gets entangled in a business deal with rival Goldian Army Generals, he finds himself held hostage in a land in which he is revered. Yet even with his proximity to the wheels of power on both sides of the pond, he cannot shout for help because of the desire to keep his good name. Second, his Goldian wife has delivered a son and uses the unique circumstances of his captivity to demand part of his wealth in exchange for his freedom and her silence over his marital status. Now, a desire for secrecy demands that Chuki engages the expertise of a fellow Iraqi War I Veteran and his high-tech buddies, who have created a lucrative business niche negotiating the release of Western hostages from the high-risk world of African warlords, terrorists, and sea pirates. In THE AMERICAN POLYGAMIST, J.R. Alila weaves a story with many twists and turns as family betrays family, honor is traded for wealth and a honorable man becomes a prisoner of his own secrets. Enter Chuki’s American wife, Patty, who suspects that he has at least one wife and child in Africa. Mrs. Patty Chuki is ready to revisit old Brooklyn-High-School romance with a Major Frank to get to the truth while in a Harvard reunion with her billionaire husband in the Maasai Mara. But will Admiral Ndeki of Goldian Navy let Patty taste the forbidden fruit in peace under Nairobi’s sunny skies?

Held hostage among his African people, this American Billionaire walks a delicate balance as he negotiates a path to freedom without hurting the feelings of his African bride, while still keeping his marital status secret back in America. Will Chuki walk free unscathed?

6. RATENG’ AND BRIDE [ISBN-13: 978-1438251097]: In the epic poem, “RATENG’ AND BRIDE,” Joseph R Alila (Author of such novels as “Whisper to My Aching Heart” and “Sunset on Polygamy”) pleads with the hero (Rateng’) to abandon a lifelong ambition of reigning in a killer, illusive Bride, and redeeming his honor and Ramogi people’s collective pride. Of Rateng’s illusive Bride—call her Power, Leadership or The Presidency—Alila reminds his hero of her corrupting, material allure and deadly charms. Like a gem, a Powerful Presidency corrupts everybody it touches, and its corrupting effects linger like the nauseating smell of a scared skunk. Employing rich imagery and proverbs, and never shy to go Luo vernacular with proverbs, in “RATENG’ AND BRIDE,” Alila has played his satirical hand, again, and demonstrated his knowledge of the political landscape of Kenya.

The epic poem captures the peril that was 2007 Kenyan Electoral conflict. Will the nation survive the tribal monster?

7. THE THIRTEENTH WIDOW [ISBN-13: 978-144951231-6]: In Joseph R. Alila’s THE THIRTEENTH WIDOW, a one-sided war between two boys (Omolo and Okoth) in middle school turns tragic in their middle age as Chief Omolo’s secret acts not only drive Tom Okoth to his grave, but also unleash a viral plague that consumes a whole village and beyond. When Charles Okoth (Tom’s elder brother) returns to his desolate Korondo village to redeem Tom’s honor, he betroths Maria, one of Tom’s many widows, who leads him to the haunting contents of a secret diary, in which Tom paints himself as an inexcusable victim of Chief Omolo’s evil schemes. The diary further paints Tom as a gullible tragic individual, who falls from the headship of a prestigious local school to being an alcoholic womanizer and widower-for-hire on a predictable path to his death. But Charles Okoth’s procreative efforts with the widows soon attract the ire of Chief Omolo’s office. Only the diary can stop Chief Omolo’s mean-spirited schemes.

A novel about tragic men and their personal vendetta in a world in which tough women rule the day. Another tough read from JR Alila.

8. SINS OF OUR HEARTS [ISBN-13: 978-143820013-2]: A young Pastor, Rew Smith, leads the affluent Oakpound New Hope Church in which things appear to be well, but his church has a deep spiritual problem. His church suffers from a shortage of love; new converts are called names and go unattended to as the young Pastor spends most of his evenings at Oakpound Big Boys Health and Fitness Club. His Lay Leadership basks in self-praise, and a form of spirituality without any force of love behind it. Led by Mrs. Smith, some members of the Women Wing have introduced a controversial Foot-Washing method for its convenience, but in which the virtues of humility and selfless love are virtually dead.

Spirituality and leadership on trial in a congregation as believers struggle with sin of pride over foot-washing ordinance.

9. WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART [ISBN-13: 978-143820751-3]: WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART is a story about two widows overcoming great odds to become mothers of a future people. In this moving-yet-romantic, love story, a young widow (Apiny) finds herself to be the bearer of the damning, spiritually-untouchable label in the male-dominated Eighteenth-Century Africa. Ejected alongside her widowed mother-in-law (Awino) and ridiculed by friends, Apiny waits for fifteen years before she receives another man in her bed. But this comes only after Awino remarries and raises a miracle son (Otin) who is called upon to marry Apiny. But, even after getting all the handsome sons and beautiful daughters she wished for from her youthful lover, Apiny is not at peace in her heart. She mourns and struggles in her heart as her youthful husband is compelled by cultural traditions to receive his own wife.

A people’s future is in the hands of two unfortunate widows. Will they survive the male world of the eighteenth century and mother a people? A book for the heart.

10. THE CHOIRMASTER [ISBN-13: 978-144954199-6]: In Mud Valley Church, the evangelizing wonders of the Church Choir have become both a blessing and a minor headache, as the growth in card-carrying membership and church attendance explode overnight. That is the blessing. The headache is the charismatic but unassuming Choirmaster whose gifts are key to the phenomenal growth. As the women-folk with available daughters fight to outdo one another in monthly dinners for the Choirmaster, things become a little earthly. But even after Michael is finally crowned with the urgency of Samuel the prophet, his outreach ministry becomes a bother to the Church Board, whose membership are left wondering, “What if the Choirmaster leaves?” when the Treasurer reveals that the Choir is funding most of Mud Valley Church’s Budget.
A community of faith on trial. Teaches that cult figures never can nurture a community of faith.

11. THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: FROM THE SUDAN TO AMERICAN POWER [ISBN-13: 978-144148311-9]: In the historical novel, THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: From the Sudan to American Power, a journey that started more than five centuries ago in the Sudan, has ended in the White House . Along the way, a child and a troubled dreamer, Ajwang’ the Dreamer (a.k.a. Ramogi) survives the knife of ire of a man robbed of his bead of wisdom. The sons of Ajwang’ must part ways with a child dead between them because of vengeance over a bead and a spear. Centuries later, an orphan must “develop wings,” fly out of Colonial Kenya to Alaska, and plant his seed, a boy, and dreamer, named Hassan Ajwang’. This boy lives to be the President of the United States of America. In the historical-fiction novel, author Joseph R. Alila pens yet another drama of life, of survival against great odds, and of victories as improbable as the sun rising from the west.

Great allegorical treatise of a current event in American leadership and the Luo people’s contribution towards it. A book for a mind seeking meaning in an otherwise complex world.

12. THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND [ISBN-13: 978-145382989-9]: In the Novel, THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND, Joseph R. Alila addresses the role of spirituality in life and politics in a society under cultural and political transitions. As a battery of ‘colonial forces’ conspire against Africa’s old way of life, wizards and prophets, who are losing clients of the ordinary kind to New Way Churches, are forced to adopt to the new spiritual reality, even if it means taking funny-sounding Greek names. In this work of fiction, Alila exposes the work of a woman of wisdom (Angelina Nyangi), her Ramogi people, their ways, their political leadership, and the perils of political cohabitation in Kenya’s young, multiethnic, multiparty democracy. Nyangi’s lifetime experiences remind the reader that modern religious dispensations might have robbed soothsayers and wizards of a lot of clients of the ordinary kind but not the important ones: She discovers that the new political and business elites love to have their ancestors’ “sixth sense” watching over their backs. She is their ancestors’ sixth sense, only she is no prophet. Now, in her sunset years, Nyangi reminisces about a life well lived, but one which had seen many antsy professional close calls shared between corrupt politicians and such strange clients as a professor of knowledge. If Angelina’s longevity has become abusive, the unseemly conducts of her eldest son and the supposed “Seer-in-waiting” (Thomas) continues to hang around her neck like a bad dream.

A good read for those looking for content beyond the mundane of daily life. Gives a peak into the Luo mind.

13. BIRTHRIGHT: A LUO TRAGEDY [ISBN-13: 978145638225-4]: Author Joseph R. Alila’s newest novel, BIRTHRIGHT, is a narrative of how one man’s cruel silence over his son’s ancestry almost destroys the latter among a people who value bloodlines, protocol, and order in marriage. The battle over birthright in the home of one Odongo Ougo of Thim Lich has turned tragic on many fronts. Atieno, a victim of a marriage protocol that destined her to the rank of second wife, even though she is older and longer-married wife of Odongo, has had enough. Atieno swears her son, Okulu, on an oath to finish off Aura and her son Juma. Primed to kill, Okulu, an abused man Odongo only halfheartedly had embraced as his own son, seriously wounds Aura, his stepmother, necessitating emergency surgical intervention. Next, Okulu turns his nighttime rage on Juma, Odongo’s juvenile son with Aura and the spiritual first son, who has just posted a perfect middle-school grade and is heading for a famous Kenyan high school. Talk of instant justice, Okulu’s blind rage turns tragic, as he, for a period, loses the function of both hands after Grace, Juma’s dog, bites him off a rabbit carcass. On a night of many unusual events, Juma, the boy running for his life, rescues a young woman, Eilzabeth, who is sinking into a hot volcanic quagmire in an alien land. Just when Juma thinks that he has met a future wife, he discovers that Elizabeth is his stepsister, through his father’s youthful indiscretions. A couple of nights later, Abich, Atieno’s youngest child, is on the prowl at the hospital, where Aura lay indisposed, when hospital security arrests her for impersonating a nurse with the intent to cause harm to a patient. Odongo declares no contest and pleads with a Dr. Otago to set her free. Talk of guts as an angler becomes fish, Abich moves on to marry the arresting doctor-in-charge (Dr. Otago), with Odongo looking on ashamed and in silence. It takes these tragic events, and the subsequent unraveling of Odongo’s past of unsettling acts against women, including Atieno, to start real dialogue in his home and resolve historical injustices that had driven a woman and two of her children into desperate criminal acts. The center holds, Aura recovers, and the Odongo home sees four more baby boys, but Odongo must face his past demons to assuage the afflicted and reestablish his honor. It turns out Okulu is Odongo’s biological son, and he is a man after all. But what restitution could Odongo pay to Okulu after all the years of communal abuse of the latter by his kin? Okulu the villain has become the invalid victim. In the novel, BIRTHRIGHT, JR Alila captures ‘Luo birthright’ as an imperfect spiritual vehicle to power and privilege in a polygamous Luo home.

A great literary novel with an anthropological look of the dynamics of marriage, conflict and conflict resolution in a Luo home. Well written.

The Mugumo Tree Has Fallen


A Mugumo treee has fallen in Nyeri, with only weeks to go to Kenya’s Presidential elections, and “experts” are agreed that it portends change of direction (an ituita, excuse my spelling). Some say it would be a change of the Presidency from Old to Young; others say it’d be a change from East to West (Kenya). Among my people, it is as ominous as Arum Tidi, the bad bird, visiting the land, spooking sick elders, making them choke amid the soupy meals. Believe what you may, but Kenya’s election will urser in changes, with a new Majimbo constitution(we’re back to KADU’s 1963). We all know that there will be change by mid year, even without the Migumo tree splitting and coughing up a snake! So fellow Kenyans, don’t chew your spleen and liver over this event. The choice is in your hands. Vote wisely, vote in peace!

This photo comes from The East African Standard, Feb 5, 2013

Joseph R. Alila (Novelist, Poet)


I’m author Joseph R. Alila, a native of Kenya living in Schenectady, New York, from where I have penned twelve novels and two epic poems. You may not have read my poetry and verse that address a variety of areas of the human experience, but you are welcome if you love writings that go beyond the mundane of daily life. I’m a chemist and teacher by training, and I for a while considered my writing as something recreational, something I did to pass time. Fourteen publications later, learning the art of writing on my feet, the literary bug has bitten me, and friends and fans say that I’m a good novelist with particular strengths in the narrative and analytical forms and with a penchant for stinging dialogue. I laugh at such suggestions, but they may be right; it may be true that writing is like wine: the creator’s output gets better with his or her age, where the wine in a bottle gets better with time in the cellar.
I started writing from what I knew well, and that was telling stories about life in a traditional Luo home–in which I grew up before I flew to multiethnic, then multinational diaspora destinations. I’ve written extensively on my Luo people’s polygamous marriages and other cultural practices, criticizing them where criticism is due, and shedding a sage’s light in an effort to put meaning to old traditions. My mournful caution against the practice of polygamy in the era of the AIDS virus came to light in SUNSET ON POLYGAMY.
My writings have tended to be anthropological–treating my subjects as actors or victims of their environments and times. My novels, WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, SUNSET ON POLYGAMY, THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: FROM THE SUDAN TO AMERICAN POWER, NOT ON MY SKIN, MAYA, BIRTHRIGHT (A LUO TRAGEDY), THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND, and lately MAYA are informative anthropological treatises on peoples and their physical, spiritual, political, cultural, and social circumstances.
I must admit that when I set out to write my earlier novels, for example SUNSET ON POLYGAMY, I had no voice or agenda. My objective was to tell stories about my Luo people and my experiences as a Christian, a Luo, an African, and a world scholar uprooted from his home base to chase scientific dreams abroad. But fourteen novels and two Epic Poems (RATENG’ AND BRIDE and THIRTEEN CURSES ON MOTHER AFRICA) later, I find himself increasingly speaking for the burdened and voiceless peoples wherever they are in the world: I speak for the African women and widows (in THE THIRTEENTH WIDOW, SUNSET ON POLYGAMY, and WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART) whose perilous yokes are the marital culture and practices whose original intentions were protective, but which cultural practices now have turned spiritual death traps, from which there is no escape.
I’ve found a mournful political voice in two of my works: In RATENG’ AND BRIDE, I visit with and relive, in poetry, Kenya’s tragic 2007 Presidential contest, pointing at errors from which the nation hasn’t recovered). In the epic poem, THIRTEEN CURSES ON MOTHER AFRICA, my message is that increasingly dependent Africa is an old shadow of its pre-colonial self; Africa is inundated with perilous crises, a lot of which are due to amnesia, nature, poor leadership choices, greed, dictatorships, and brother-on-brother conflicts, with Ebony the African Woman and her children bearing the brunt of the deadly forces.
In THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: FROM THE SUDAN TO AMERICAN POWER–a novel inspired by and about the Obama Presidency–I endeavor to make a tortuous historical-cum-spiritual fictional march of my Luo people from their slow fifteenth-century times in Old Sudan to East Africa, only for one of us to occupy the world’s only citadel of power. If some of my predictions about the current American Presidency seem to have come to pass, they have to be taken as illustrations of what thoughtful fiction (science or otherwise) can achieve.
Collectively, in the novels, THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND, THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: FROM THE SUDAN TO AMERICAN POWER, and BIRTHRIGHT (A LUO TRAGEDY), I shed a sage’s torch, liberally illuminating various aspects of the Luo journey, Luo cultural practices, Luo spirituality, and Luo thought. No wonder, my literary breakthrough novel BIRTHRIGHT (A LUO TRAGEDY) has been a classroom text in African Anthropology at an American University.
Finally, the novels, NOT ON MY SKIN, THE AMERICAN POLYGAMIST, SINS OF OUR HEARTS, THE CHOIRMASTER (A SPIRITUAL TRAGEDY), and MAYA, I explore our day’s very dynamic American experience, consciousness, and attitudes at street level, inside houses of worship, and at the work place.
My readers could be right, my literary journey no longer is recreational; like aged wine, it has come of age. Welcome, sample it, and however it tastes, let others know, and holler here on Amazon.com.

 http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-R.-Alila/e/B002QD5TDM