Novelist JR Alila


Fiction

Sunset on Polygamy; The American Polygamist; The Thirteenth Widow; The Milayi Curse; The Wise One of Ramogiland; Sins of Our hearts; Whisper to My Aching Heart; Not on My Skin; The Choirmaster; The Luo Dreamers Odyssey (From the Sudan to American Power); Birthright (A Luo Tragedy); A Fishy Matter; Rebels

Poetry

Thirteen Curses on Mother Africa; Rateng’ and Bride

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.

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MAYA (A Novel)


Maya (Synopsis)

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.

Whisper to My Aching Heart


In the novella WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, novelist Joseph R. Alila (“The Milayi Curse”) tells a story about two eighteenth-century Luo widows who battle against great odds to become mothers of a future people. In this moving romantic story, a young widow (Apiny) is the bearer of the damning spiritually untouchable label in the patriarchal African society. 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. Even then, her moment of triumph only comes after Awino (an old widow whose womb is all but shut) remarries and raises a miracle son (Otin), who answers the call to marry Apiny and redeem his fallen brother’s honor.  However, even after getting all the handsome sons and beautiful daughters she wishes to get from her youthful lover, Apiny is not at peace in her heart. She mourns and struggles, in her heart, as her youthful husband inevitably bows to Luo cultural demands and receives a virgin wife (Nyogola).

In Apiny’s senior years, the reality of her age and jealousy against Nyogola and her sons combine to motivate her (Apiny) to eject Otin publicly. Now, being a well-behaved jater (levir or substitute husband), Otin exits Apiny’s house without a fight, as one Magundho, an older man, eats by her fireside

In this story, the desire of one woman to honor the wishes of a fallen husband, and another woman’s resolution to establish a legacy of a fallen son, cement the widows together into a unified purposeful whole; that oneness enables them to survive the pain and humiliation of rejection, and they triumph in the end.

MAYA (A Novel)


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.

Whisper to My Aching Heart


In the novella WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, novelist Joseph R. Alila tells a story about two eighteenth-century Luo widows who battle against great odds to become mothers of a future people. In this moving-yet-romantic story, a young widow (Apiny) is the bearer of the damning spiritually untouchable label in the patriarchal African society. 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. Even then, her moment of triumph comes only after Awino remarries and raises a miracle son (Otin), who answers the call to marry Apiny and redeem his fallen brother’s honor. 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 inevitably bows to Luo cultural demands and receives a virgin wife.

 

Ways of the Wise 3


On day two, the Son of Okech was routinely inspecting his homestead, when a wild cat attacked him at around 2 a.m.

For various reasons, men routinely inspected their homesteads in the depth of night: a cow that was loosely tethered could start roaming about and out of the homestead. Also, he might just be lucky to catch a glimpse of the secret goings-on in the homestead; like some escapades of his teenage sons, and, who knows, even those of his wives. Moreover, he could have unknowingly married a “night runner,” or a practitioner of some strange cult religion. In the depth of the dark nights, such wives would wake up to their true psychic selves. Operating under cover of darkness provided the man with an opportunity to get these kinds of unique information.

What about the secret lovers, the ong’ora, who frisked the landscape late at night? One risk in a polygamous home is that some forgotten women can entertain some ‘boyfriends’ when the husbands’ eyes and ears were trained elsewhere. But spying on one’s wife for the purpose of discovering her secret lovers was an activity our society frowned on. Spying on each other often sowed the seeds of mistrust between husbands and wives. It is human to be weak and stray in love.

The ong’ora had his space in any woman’s heart, and my people recognized this. For this reason, men were advised to make loud and recognizable noises as they approached their homes at night; that way, any strangers in the homestead would have adequate time to make hurried escapes through some cracks in their fencing around homes.

A man was not supposed to invest a lot of energy in trying to find out his wife’s secret lovers, whose existence, or lack of, was assumed. This was for the good and stability of the clan.

The product of this web of underground love relationships was that there were a few homes in which the children were bat-eared, squint-eyed or skewed-legged, and looked more like the children of another clan member, or those of distant cousins.

The reasons for such ‘coincidences’ were acknowledged in whispers, but never publicly discussed for the posterity and stability of the clan. People lived and fought for the clan’s survival, were born in and raised by the clan in the best of its traditions. Naturally, therefore, few eyebrows were raised if a few men cast their stray millet far and wide.

Moreover, the clan, in its wisdom, even covered for impotent male members. Such men married and ‘raised’ children with their wives. The clan and family made sure that eunuchs were married. It was acknowledged that his brothers and close cousins would rule his home in the night.

For reasons such as these, a jealous man was thoroughly advised by the wizened elders on some basic truths of married life: ‘Capturing a wife in love is one traumatic experience; it is one thing a man may not be strong enough to face; therefore, snooping around one’s wife is sin!’

The polygamous culture is by no means promiscuous. Far from it: My people rated a promiscuous man or woman (ja chode) very low on the moral scale. But once polygamy was part of a culture, it had to be accepted that, some of the time, the men were not in charge as lords over their wives in their homesteads.

‘A woman is such a big thing for one to claim the sole ownership of,’ and so our wise rightly observed. So a man had to live within the bounds of these words of wisdom. These words could have been as literal as they were figurative.

For example, no man could claim to be the sole owner of the thoughts and feelings of his wife. A woman in a village full of other men did have another man for whom she had a soft spot; with whom she would laugh her heart out on their way from the market; of whose help she readily called for over such mundane affairs as fixing a hoe or killing some goat; and with whom verbal intercourse was as natural and innocent as with her husband; and yet she still remained truly faithful to her husband.

A man, who snooped around such a wife, would have died, at heart, ten times over an affair that never existed. Jim understood all that. But, sometimes, affairs do occur in every couple’s life.

Jim mulled over these truths, as he wondered about his encounter with the wild cat, and tried to mine some psychic connection to it. What kind of luck did this event portend? Or was it one of those chance events, with the cat and him being in the same space at the wrong time? He did not think so, and neither did he want to believe it.

For the first time in Jim’s marriage to the four very beautiful women, he had become uncharacteristically suspicious of his first wife. ‘Squirrels do not just attack humans for no reason, one has to provoke them;’ so he tried to rationalize, but couldn’t.

Source: SUNSET ON POLYGAMY by Joseph R. Alila,

 available from(www.publishamerica.com); http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002QD5TDM; www.barnesandnoble.com

KENYA IS IN A FOOD CRISIS


Kenya is facing a prolonged drought, a 7-million person food shortage, a refugee problem, and the crippling governance and democracy gridlock over the post-election violence, and how the nation can try and punish those who sponsored violence and reconcile the nation at the same time

The famine is so serious that the members of the usually gridlocked cabinet are singing the same tune. A national food emergency response team has been set up under the Prime Ministers office.

Let us remember Kenya in this hour of need.