A spiritual prophecy comes true in Dellums’ (Grandma Leola Celebrates Purim, 2015, etc.) colorful story of a Congolese culture and religion.
This contemplative tale opens in Nkamba, Congo, as the young narrator describes a fanciful dream in which she laughs and dances naked with her mother. Later, inspired by the spirit of a bird that sings by her window, she describes village life, including how her Grandma Ramona and Papa Basille fell in love at the marketplace. This meandering, journal-like tale also attempts to show the strength and resilience of the Congolese people; for example, in her dream, the narrator laughs near the entrance of a horrible slave tunnel. The story’s main focus, however, is a 100-year-old prophecy by a real-life religious leader, Simon Kimbangu, who envisioned that slaves’ ancestors would someday return to Nkamba. When the narrator awakens, she and Grandma Ramona witness the fulfillment of the prophecy, as two American travelers enter Nkamba. The story later takes a poignant turn when beloved Grandma Ramona becomes sick with malaria. Interspersed with color photos of people, nature, and village scenes, Dellums’ poetic language can be lovely at times. However, the narrator’s voice often sounds more like an adult’s; for example, a description of Grandma Ramona is overly stilted: “She is sturdy because she is a capillary in the body of the collective; she is one with the consciousness of the eternal and the sublime harmony of all living breathing beings, and because she is anchored by the rock of her beloved, my Grandfather, Papa Basille.” Also, when describing her mother’s death, the little girl loftily proclaims: “There are no more radiant fevers stifling her breath or drenching her brow.” Despite this, there are enough cultural references in Dellums’ well-intentioned narrative—such as a story about the blue eyes of an “alabaster leopard king”—to make readers want to learn more about this beautiful part of the world.
An often engaging work that could be used as an introduction to Congo studies.