Novelist JR Alila


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


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.



Fellow Kenyan,
Didn’t we all sing
Change is in the air
As the wise ones
Stirred the magic pot:
Divining, praying and prophesying in search
of the way forward?

Fellow Kenyan,
We all sang
And yearned for change,
The third liberation
Appeared to have been on course:
We hoped it would be
The liberation from tribalism;
We hoped it would be
The liberation from corruption;
We hoped it would be
The liberation from sycophancy;
We hoped it would be
The liberation from the politics
Of kickbacks and rewards.

Fellow Kenyan,
All that would not be,
Even as the people had willed
Change at the ballot-box
Because an evil cabal of oligoks
Would subvert the people’s will,
Yet again;
And turn you against me,
And I against you,
And wife against husband,
And doctor against patient,
And turn our ballots
Into weapons of mutual death.

Fellow Kenyan,
Wake up, my brother
Wake up, my sister
Do not be cheated into bearing

Fellow Kenyan,
Wake up, my brother;
Wake up, my sister
Never again ever
Shall we allow ourselves
By a manipulative, powerful
Cabal of evil elites.

Fellow Kenyan,
Wake up, my brother;
Wake up, my sister,
Lest we again become
Mere expendable pawns
In this war of a manipulative cabal
of voracious, evil-and-powerful elites.

Fellow Kenyan,
Wake up, my brother;
Wake up, my sister,
Never, never again should we
Allow our ballots to be turned
Into child-killing
weapons of death.

Fellow Kenyan,
Wake up my brother;
Wake up my sister,
There is only one mother
between us, and that mother
is our Dear Kenya;
And we must not allow her
To go to these manipulative
Crows of Nairobi.

Source: RATENG’ AND BRIDE (a poem)
by Joseph R. Alila, June

JR Alila’s: Rateng’ and Bride (Epic Poem)

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.

@ CreateSpace eStore 

THE LUO DREAMERS’ ODYSSEY: From the Sudan to American Power (A Novel)

The only book (allegorical and historical) with a visionary look into the journey that is the Obama Presidency. Read Chapter 28 ( A significant Event) to appreciate what happened in the world today; the killing of Osama Bin Laden.



 A Significant Event


Washington, D.C., 2012



On New Years Eve, early in the morning, the President visited his study to while time as he waited for any information about Shark. He had been briefed about the demise of the fugitive, but it was taking time to extract Shark and his team of commandos from the strike zone. President Ajwang’, picked up a book, one of his publications, flipped through it for a minute before returning it to its place in the bookshelf. Having failed to get what he needed, his mind started to drift back and forth about the state of the world that Sunday, when a familiar voice, a male voice called through the doorway to his study.

Mr. President?”. The President knew it was from Ziki, the White House Chief of Staff, except the bearer’s tone betrayed some excitement.

What is it on a Sunday morning, Ziki?” the President asked without turning around from a window where he had stood admiring a laminated photograph of the First Lady he carried for luck.

The Priest, Mr. President.”

What Priest, Ziki?”

This is Shark, Mr. President,” a second voice came, which forced the President blood’s to suddenly warm up. It too forced the President to turn around in excitement.

Why the excitement?

Officially, Shark, the Deputy National Security Advisor had been posted as a Special Envoy to Darfur and Congo with a mission to solidify gains made in the administration’s aggressive efforts to bring lasting peace in the two largest regions in Africa, and had an office in Nairobi. Shark’s actual mission was deep covert and top secret. The Colonel was back in uniform. Mission Location: somewhere in the world. Mission: Hunting down enemies of the United States of America. That had been two months before.

Mr. Chief of Staff, do you want to give us exactly one minute alone?”


A “Ker” among the Luo is a kind of spiritual leader even as he acts as the Chairman of THE LUO COUNCIL, a cultural political body. Can such a man be identified through a contested election? Who sits to elect such a body. Why is there a struggle between South Nyanza and Central Nyanza leaderships over the venerable, and if I may add, burdensome, Stool in Ramogi land? Shouldn’t the Stool of Ker be a lifetime seat? Anybody out there?