JR Alila’s “A FISHY MATTER” (a novel)


In JR Alila’s novel A FISHY MATTER [ISBN-13: 978-1541311657], by a single unusual act, a beautiful witch, Kala, unsettles decades of peace between residents of Korondo Ridge and their neighbors on Osure Ridge.
Obera of Korondo Ridge is an unhappy woman: every Friday evening, her fresh-fish dish sends Odingo, her alcoholic husband, fleeing to alcohol dens before she even serves her soup.
Across the River Dolo, in one Chan’s home, Kala, a beautiful witch, has a different problem: she wants a child she cannot get from Otis, her witch husband. Specifically complicating her situation is her being a witch, a night runner–a fact that has limited her options from within Chan’s home. Didn’t the Luo of old say, “Jaber jaula–the beautiful one has a fault”?
Urged by her mother-in-law (Wilkista), who is anxious to cover her son’s shame, Kala looks beyond Osure Ridge to neighboring Korondo Ridge for seeds for her field. Thanks to her nocturnal life, one night, Kala encounters Odingo returning from a late-night alcohol party. A few nocturnal sightings later, Kala nabs Odingo, charms him into a zombie, gets her wish, and dumps the dumb zombie into a dead well in Dolo Valley.
The Luo say, “Jajuok ido gotieno to ing’eye–a witch charms people at night, but he or she eventually is known.” That is what happens in the Kala/Odingo saga. A boy within Chan’s home talks about Odingo’s disappearance. Chan is rocked when he realizes that his first wife, Wilkista–a woman with whom he has lived for over thirty years and the mother of his six sons–is a practicing witch, and so is Otis, their last born.
Odingo eventually regains speech, but only after religious ministers and a mysterious passerby play their spiritual hands in the case.
The Kala-Odingo saga is not over on both ridges. On Korondo Ridge, Kala charms her way into the hearts of Odingo’s family, principally by flaunting “a shared blood bond” at them. Call it the cat palling with the mouse, Kala soon is secretly dating Odingo, her victim, but a few pairs of eyes are watching from both ridges.
On Osure Ridge, Kala turns rogue: she directs her charms at Chan; she even bats down the father-in-law in his own home.
When Kala’s pregnancy becomes obvious, a raging verbal war erupts between Wilkista and Chan over the swirling claim that she sent her daughter-in-law (and fellow witch) to the aliens of Korondo Ridge, to get seeds for her field. Angry over the scandalous exposure, Wilkista orders Otis to get rid of Kala, just as the pregnant belle walks on the conversation.
Kala realizes her life is in danger, crosses Dolo Valley, and lands in brave Odingo’s waiting hands. Both elope to a distant city, leaving residents of Korondo Ridge and Osure Ridge wondering what has hit them. It is a first: neither ridge ever before lost a wife to their cross-valley neighbors.
Chan fights for his honor in legal courts, as Kala, now “born again”, sets her roots in Korondo Ridge.

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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.

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.

The Thirteenth Widow (A Novel): The Story (Part 2)


                                                                                                                                                     

  You, Tom Okoth, accepted your new circumstance as a two-woman man, and you drowned the sounds of protests and disagreements from your friends and family in alcohol and more alcohol, and before you knew it, waking up in houses of widows, near and distant, became a habit; before you knew it, waking up in emergency wards with stitches across your face became normal; before you knew, it inheriting widows became a habit; before you knew it missing school became a habit. With a few years you lost your job: first as the headmaster of Soko Intermediate School, then as a teacher. Chief Omolo, your “friend,” chaired the school board that sacked you. At a local bar, he fed you some beer then hired a cyclist to drop you somewhere behind your home. What a fried you had in Chief Omolo! You left home the day after, never to return for another three years!

You never returned home the day after the sack, not because of your shame as the man and headmaster of a school who had drank away his job, but because you met a jewel bedecked, pearly mermaid in a Homa Bay hotel. Yes, you met the mythical mermaid, except yours was not a myth. She was a real woman with flesh and blood: She was intelligent, ingenious, and beautiful, and apparently wealthy. That was your mermaid. The morning after you met, you thought she was not real; she had suited you and dumped thousands of shillings on you. Her name was Luna Green. She hence gave you the name Mr. Tom Green. You were her new husband, and more. You had found yourself in Luna’s arms in a classy hotel in Homa Bay, where you’d landed the day after the sack, having filed an appeal against your dismissal by your school’s board at Ndhiwa KNUT (your local teaching trade union) office.  Well, you had filed your case, then visited Homa Bay to drown your shame—once and for all—in the may many bars in town. Then you met the mermaid known as Luna Green. By midmorning of the morrow, you (now Mr. Tom Green) were touring the waters of Lake Victoria in Luna’s personal motorized boat, The MV Lunar Rock.

A week later into the whirlwind of a tour, dazed, dazzled and believing that you’d met a mermaid out of the Lolwe, you wedded Luna or she married you (if you get my Luo sense of the verb ”marry”) in Ahero Town—some bishop presiding. A day later, you were in a dreamy mansion in Ngong—that famous land of the Maasai. You would lead a dreamy three-year life as the husband of Luna the Gemstone Dealer. By the end, that came, suddenly, you’d a degree in business administration.

Then your life with the gem dealer known as Mrs. Luna Green came to a screeching halt, when she disappeared while in advanced pregnancy with your child. Within a short order you watched and listened as Green Gems Inc crumbled. The mansion you called yours was put on sale by creditors of Green Gems Inc. Apparently still controlling events from her hideout, Luna, willed that you be paid 39000 shillings, and that you left home immediately. In no way were you to leave with any other clothes except the ones on your back.

Scared, you scampered off with your life after a brief enquiry with Nairobi Police let you know that there was no person in Kenya known as Luna Green or Tom Green. Even you didn’t exist. If you had suspected that Luna was a genie or mermaid, you’d no more reason to doubt. You’d be back to Korondo Village to your longsuffering wife and your children, never to use the name Tom Green again. In three years, you, Tom Okoth, had travelled to hell and heaven and back to another round in hell.

The Thirteenth Widow (A Novel): The Story


What if you woke up one morning with a broken arm, a broken rib, and six stitches of some fiber across your heavily bandaged face, and you were in a room you couldn’t see, except it smelled like carbolic acid (excuse my archaic language);  you knew that you’ve been badly banged and your body ached generally.

Sure there was a feminine voice in the room, and the voice was saying that you’ll be okay; that you were worse a few days before; that some people she couldn’t talk about in public nearly killed you. “You’ll live, Mr. Okoth,” she says, walking out of the room before you could tell her that you were thirsty. Regardless she couldn’t have heard your mumbled words, and she couldn’t have obeyed your need because you were a Nothing-by-Mouth case.

You walked out a month later with a part of your life left behind. You move on back to your life as the headmaster of Soko Primary School, knowing quite well that a middle-school foe had been behind your ordeal; that the woman you remember having shared beer with; the woman you spent a night with, had been a police bait placed on your alcoholic path by friends of your middle-school foe—a bait that would deliver you to hungry intelligence dogs looking for Mwakenya sympathizers. Don’t worry if you never heard the word Mwakenya. Those who lived through Kenya’s politics in the 1980s know that Mwakenya was an underground movement whose sole agenda was to bring down KANU’s one-party state. You were beaten senseless because someone—your middle-school foe—claimed that you were Mwakenya agent, yet you were not, and you had nowhere to complain.

You, Okoth weren’t that lucky, for a few years later, the same foe now was the chief of your location at a time when Kenyan location chiefs wielded much power and directly answered to the President of the nation. You remained a mere headmaster of a Middle School. You drunk together with your chief, call him Chief Omolo, and the chief could insist that you escorted him home, and you did so because no one ever said no to the chief. Along the way to the chief’s abode, you sampled chang’aa (an illicit brew) and the chief did the buying, and you did the drinking. In fact, he only sniffed the bottles of chang’aa you shared. You felt happy as you ambled your way deeper and deeper into the chief’s village, sampling chang’aa as you went. To an observer, the two of you were just two buddies walking shoulder to shoulder. But you were drunk and he wasn’t, and the chief was up to something sinister.

What if you woke up early dawn on a strange headache, singing in praise of your wife Jane, except you were not in your home? You were two ridges away to the south in the house of some widow left behind by a distant cousin. She had been asleep before you sang, and your strange song ticked her off, and now she was ordering you leave her house before sunrise. In her deal with Chief Omolo, who had delivered you to her, the sun was not supposed to rise with you still in the home in mourning; your mission was supposed to have been so secret that even you, the drunkard, wasn’t supposed to have known that you had been in the home of curses. Now you understood the joke. You knew that the late Otieno died a strange death, a fact that had kept his brothers away from his beautiful widow. Your situation stunk: In your drunken stupor, you had inherited the spiritual burdens in your late cousin’s home. If you were a scholar of the Old Testament, or if you had read Apostle Paul’s Letter to Hebrews, you understood that you had become what the people of faith called the scapegoat—the goat that left the sanctuary with communal sins for an uncertain journey into the wild desert where predators roamed.

To continue . . .)

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

The Luo Dreamers’ Odyssey: A Novel for the Time


THE MAN, A BLACK MAN, sat behind the Ageless Desk, reading from a pile of odd news clips that the web-crawling boys and girls of the Communications and Propaganda Bureau had fed him earlier that morning. He scribbled remarks and question marks around the paragraphs as he read a publication titled One Man’s Improbable Journey, which had summarized the circumstances of his history-making political feat. His morning reading completed, he picked up a basketball ball from a six-ball rack he kept by his side and threw it effortlessly into a practice bin set five yards away at a corner of the office. Satisfied, he reached for a world map, a ‘globe,’ on his desk, turned it anticlockwise and stopped with his left fourth-finger pointing at a spot near Juba in southern Sudan. He visibly shuddered with his finger still on the volatile region of Sudan. With tremulous hands, he traced a direct line from Juba to Kisumu, Kenya, and continued his trace to Nairobi, then stopped for a minute of meditation. Remembering that his Kenyan father wasn’t alive to celebrate his triumph, his left eye betrayed a teardrop.

Reining in the sudden bubbling of emotion, the man turned the globe clockwise as he traced a line from Nairobi, Kenya, to Anchorage, Alaska, symbolically re-enacting, in spirit, his late father’s flight in what Kenyan historians call ‘Mboya Student Airlifts,’ and the Americans call ‘Kennedy Airlifts.’ He stopped in a reverential pose, remembering that he was a product of the airlifts, and that both of his parents never lived long enough to witness his history-making triumph.

Turning the globe anticlockwise, he traced a line from Anchorage, Alaska to Omaha, Nebraska, his political home base, then onward to Washington, D.C., the seat of world power, and stopped. Lowering his head, the man volunteered a silent prayer “Lord, give me the wisdom to know Your will; give me the power to execute Your will; give me the courage to stand with the weak and poor; give me the voice to speak against evil; Lord, protect me from my desires; Lord protect me from my friends.”

That the words “Your will” had come from his mouth surprised him—a man not known for much religious fervor. Even if he had any guilt on his tongue, the words IN GOD WE TRUST that greeted his eyes from a polished brass plaque before him—reminding him that he was the President of the United States of America—assuaged him.

Standing up, he picked up a second ball and executed another scoring throw, inhaled deeply, and then said in an emotion-filled whisper, “I’m one damned lucky black man.” Again, the man known for his cold detachment while under pressure betrayed another teardrop. The frequent welling up of emotion that morning surprised him. It was unlike him, the man who joked that among his Luo people, men don’t shed tears at funerals; they don’t wail either, they sing war songs instead. Any observer watching that morning would have taken the seven-feet-tall man to be a volunteering-basketball superstar grading mediocre sophomore essays in a middle school. But this was President Hank Hassan Ajwang’, a black man from Alaska, the first black President of the United States of America. Ajwang’ was on his first full day at work in the Oval Office.

The man had watched him that morning. Ziki, the White House Chief of Staff, had wished to see the president, but had retreated on realizing that his charge was in a prayerful mood. Something about the scene had bothered him: the president was tense, even using the globe as a prayer-aid. As Ziki retreated to his office, he gave the man he now served as White House Chief of Staff a knowing bye on sanity. Ziki rationalized that even the unflappable Ajwang’ had the right to feel overwhelmed by the challenges promised by the Presidency of the United States of America.

There had been challenges along the way: the toil of a two-year campaign, and the unusual odds that had marked Ajwang’s candidacy.

Ziki, who had served as Hassan Ajwang’s Communications Director during the campaigns, understood the broiling public scrutiny his boss had endured, and he knew the toil in emotions the up-and-downs of the campaigns had exerted on his man. Then there were the toxic myths and innuendos to have visited his candidate under the glare of the insatiable 24/7 instant news cycle, fired by the intrusive electronic mass communication media of the day.

Retreating back to his office, Ziki rambled in his heart, “Give the man a break; he was the unlikely candidate, who beat all the adversities put on his path, to become the President of the United States of America. Let him pray in whatever way, in whatever language, and for as long as he likes, on this first day at work. He needs it before he confronts the mounting uncertainty in the world. If he breaks a glass window in the Oval Office with an angry basketball, the taxpayers can pay.”

Sure, President Hank Hassan Ajwang’ had come to power in a world at war, and during a period of worldwide hunger. He took his oath as the leader of a world under great economic distress worldwide.

In Kenya, the land of his late father, hunger stalked mothers and their children as cornmeal disappeared from the shelves—thanks to a mushrooming cabal of virtual briefcase millers overnight—and whenever cornmeal was found, it was more expensive than meat. In Zimbabwe, political leaders still held the people hostage, as mothers scavenged for wild roots and herbs to feed their emaciated babies. In the Middle East, Gaza was a city under rubble and rot, thanks to an on-and-off battle between two cousins fighting for land. In Congo, Darfur, and Somalia, women and children hadn’t known peace in generations, as women continued to bear their sons in chaos, some of whom married amid chaos and died amid chaos. In Rome, Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Moscow, and London, the stock markets had collapsed, turning royalty and millionaires into paupers, overnight.

Yet the world had welcomed Ajwang’s Presidency in fetes and balls because in him desperate mothers saw the hope of their infants, and millionaires saw the security of their gold and diamonds; the world celebrated his triumph because it was as historical as it was improbable.

Ajwang’s election to the office of President of the United States of America was as odd a chance as the sun rising from the west, to paraphrase a Luo dream. Here were the odds: Fact, six hundred years before, his Luo people had no permanent homeland; they were semi-nomadic clans fighting their way out of the Sudan southward along the shores of the River Nile, as they searched for the next suitable land and pasture for their cattle. Fact, six hundred years before, his American ancestors were still in Europe; six hundred years before, Columbus and other seafaring nuts, were not born yet. Fact, when Ajwang’s father left Kenya in late 1950s to study in the United States of America, the East African Nation was still a British Colony.

Fact: no black man before him ever held the seat in America—a majority-white country that had enslaved black generations before him.

So even in twenty-first-century America, Ajwang’s victory had busted long-held myths and attitudes on race and political leadership. That he won by a landslide meant that the electorate had seen him through a social prism that filtered off race, and left only the person and his word. His victory meant that the electorate had peeled and examined him, layer-by-layer, and reduced him in their minds to the essence of what man is, which is the quality and worth of his words.

That he was born in the faraway State of Alaska among people who played by their own rules of existence, was an extra hurdle he had to surmount in order to reach the hearts and souls of the majority mainland American electorate. Ajwang’s hurdle was the higher, given that his father was an alien, a Luo, born in Africa. In the minds of the pundits of his nation, he had too fresh an association with aliens to become the President of the United States of America.

When his pundits from the Caucasian side of his ancestry were through with analyzing him, new and unexpected hurdles would pop up on his political path—these were hurdles in apathy and doubts among his brethren of color. There were whispers of discomfort with his candidacy in churches, barbershops, and salons patronized by his brethren of color. Their concerns were of two types: First, was Hassan Ajwang’ like them at a human level? Was he black physically and mentally? Did he think like them? Did he suffer their pain, given that none in his known lineage ever experienced slavery as its subjects?

Second, was the political reality check: Would the young man from Omaha, Nebraska, lead the charge and bear the heavy burden to fulfill Dr. King’s Dream? That was the big question in every black person’s mind. They also had doubts about Ajwang’ because past politicians of color had tried and come far short in their courtship of the presidency. Was the relatively young, soft-spoken poet, and community activist, from Omaha, Nebraska, made of the tempered steel required for the tough fight ahead of him? These questions bothered every man and woman of color in barbershops and salons nationwide.

Ajwang’s brothers and sisters of color were also challenging him publicly to discard his intellectual nuance, and sharpen the edge of his poetry to the point where these brethren would say Amen at every stanza, even if he did so at the risk of alienating his white constituency.

In churches, barbershops, and salons in the land, Ajwang’s brethren of color had wondered aloud as to whether he would prevail in his presidential quest in a land in which subtle and obvious racial schisms still existed, and social integration was still a work in progress. They wondered aloud as to whether the soft-spoken poet and lawmaker from Omaha, with neither the fire-spitting tongue of a rap star nor the damning quotes of a religious preacher, was the man to deliver them to the shore yonder.

Ajwang’ would prove them wrong. The allure of his soft poetry would win where his brethren of color had demanded fiery rap rhymes. Ajwang’ would sit at the citadel of world power—a power on wings; a power greater than the one, which his fifteenth-century ancestor, namesake, and fellow dreamer, Ajwang’ the Dreamer, was shown.

Yes, Hank Hassan Ajwang’ was a damned lucky black man.

Just when President Ajwang’ started to wonder why the Chief of Staff hadn’t bothered him with the day’s public agenda, there was a knock on the door.

“Mr. President, do you’ve a moment?”

“Of course, Mr. Chief of Staff,” President Ajwang’ responded without any complaint for having been distracted from an interesting line of thought. “The First Lady of the United States of the United States is here to see you in her role as a public advocate for White House Staff.”

“What is amiss on Day One? Jeez! Ziki, hold her off a minute as I put on my jacket,” the president said before adding, “Tim, I want you to read this essay once every week for the next four years. Pass it around to all of my staff; it should act as a constant reminder of the improbability of our journey as an administration headed by one lucky black man kept sane in the hands of a wonderful First Lady, who happens to be black, too. Ziki, we promised the people gold and diamonds; the people expect nothing less!”

“Mr. President, with due respect, the campaigns are over. It is time to govern, and you won’t run a country by listening to every rant off the blog.”

“Mr. Chief of Staff, I just gave you the First Presidential Order to execute; the year two-thousand-and-twelve is less than four years away.”

“Order received, Sir!”

“Tim, this one is easy to do: I need a real basketball net installed at that corner.”

“Mr. President, you want to trash the Oval Office?”

“Tim, do your job, which includes keeping the president sane.”

Just then, The First Lady of the United States strode into the Oval Office.

“Good morning, gentlemen!” said The First Lady of the United States.

,p>“Tim, excuse us,” the president ordered his Chief of Staff.

“He beat me to your office, Mr. President?” said The First Lady of the United States.

“Well, he’s the Chief of Staff.”

“The power structure has to change in this place.”

“The roles are contained . . .”

“Sh . . . !”

“Why did you do that? There is a video feed from this office.”

“Have a good day, Mr. President. Some overworked White House Staffer won’t scoop The First Lady of the United States in this place. By the way, your good friend, the Chief of Staff, bribed the cameras,” Linda Ajwang’, The First Lady of the United States, said and left the oval office.

“Jeez! Who knew that the woman, who beat me up at my own game, and secured me within my own skin twenty years ago, would be the first black First Lady of the United States of America?” the president whispered to himself in reference to an event that had changed his life, and made him secure in his own black skin. Until then, he had been chasing after a nonexistent, metaphorical white woman, who only existed in his dreams. On that day two decades before in Omaha Central Park, Omaha, Nebraska, one clever black woman caught his wandering spirit and wouldn’t let go until she successfully had guided him into the house of power and pearls.

The new leader of the free world put the romantic thoughts behind him, and for the second time that morning, stared at the bust of his favorite past President, posted at a corner of his desk. After some five minutes of reflection on the life and times of his political idol, he whispered, “Abe, how were you able to balance your life as a President? How were you able to hold a national crisis in one hand and creativity in the other, and still follow the desires of your heart and the rigors of family life?”

Just then, two courting doves in beak-to-tail formation made two quick diving passes by his window, reminding the president of what is socially common among animal species, namely, language of communication, active relationships, play, and procreation.

A knock on the door, brought the president back to the present.

“Mr. President, The First Lady of the United States of the United States will be receiving her neighbors in a few minutes,” announced the president’s Personal Assistant.

“O tradition! I’ll be out in a minute, Sam!”

How did a black man from Alaska become the first black President of the United States of America at a time of great military and economic perils worldwide?

Destiny.

Hassan Ajwang’s story was part of a long tale, which had journeyed across the globe, traveled some tortuous six-hundred years, outlasted colonization and human bondage, and brought down many racial barriers.

Six hundred years ago in the Sudan, Ajwang’s black ancestors were nomadic people following the Nile, inching incrementally southward ahead of the encroachment of the Sahara against their livestock. Their flight south would be hastened by a new threat in a new religion and complicated by internal family conflicts.

Leading and guiding the flight south were men who rose to the occasion and acted when the challenges of their times demanded courage, and challenged personal honor, common wisdom, and established tradition. The mention of their names sent shivers down the spines of fellow men. Each would etch an indelible mark on their time, and leave permanent footprints for fellow men to follow.

Leading in the odyssey out of the old Sudan was a dreamer, a nomad, a man of the wild, a man of rare wisdom, a man named Ajwang or Ramogi. Ramogi (the wrestler) was a man guided by his dreams, a man of courage, who never blinked at danger, and the father of all Luo nations, from Sudan to Tanzania.

Hassan Ajwang’ would live the dreams of his famous Luo ancestor. Though Hassan Ajwang’ was born to meager resources, he would be schooled in the Athenian tradition, would volunteer in the service of the poor, but he now mingles and dines with the rich of his time; he’s a man for the times, who wields Spartan Power in his hands and debates doubters at the Citadel.

His Luo people call him The Ajwang’. In their minds, he’s the promise in their long and storied journey that dates back six centuries. They see in him their rendezvous with destiny, and a prophecy fulfilled, and not just a historical accident.

There was a dream and there were many dreamers.

Source: Joseph R. Alila’s “THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: From the Sudan to American Power.”

ISBN 13: 9781441483119.

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

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.