50 Books by Authors of Color: Book 28
Title: The Red Moon
Author: Kuwana Haulsey
Have I mentioned how much I love the public library’s Secondhand Prose Book sales? Honestly it’s how I managed to afford most of the books I needed for my English Literature minor, plus I got to pick up some really random books like The Red Moon and The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf that languished on my shelves unread until starting this project.
The Red Moon tells the story of Nasarian, the daughter of a successful African herdsman, and his fourth wife, Nima. When I say fourth wife, I mean current fourth wife, as the Samburu tribe that they belong to practices polygyny (the practice of one man having multiple wives at the same time). The fourth wife is not Samburu like the others, she is Somali but she is loved by the other wives with the exception of the first wife, Kedua and her son Lolorok. Kedua disliked Nima because Nima’s daughter was born healthy and survived but all of Kedua’s children but Lolorok died in childhood.
At the novels beginning Nasarian’s mother has just followed her father in death. With the family patriarch dead the family falls under the care of Kedua’s oldest son, Lolorok. Lolorok has fed off of his mother’s distain for Nasarian and after Nima’s death he plans on sending her away to be circumcised and then to marry her off. Nasarian doesn’t want this and runs away. Unfortunately she cannot survive in the bush alone for long so she is forced to return home. Lolorok decides instead of circumcising her (thank goodness) to send her to live with a relative Lalasi, to help care for his child Nasieku (Nasi) and attend school. Lalasi’s wife is in the picture, but she is an alcoholic and extremely depressed and very rarely leaves her bedroom.
Nasarian spends a long time with Lalasi and Nasi, and grows to love the child. But Lalasi’s greed destroys everything when he greedily decides to marry off the very young Nasi and sends her off to get circumcised. Yeah, unfortunately, readers are subjected to a horrifying description of female circumcision, I knew it was coming from the description of the book and it still made me cringe.
You also get the Nasarian’s father, Ngatuny and how his extreme laziness as a child caused the demise of his childhood family and how he became to have a Somali wife.
I can only assume that I bought this book because the book jacket says that the female character is against her own circumcision. So I bought it assuming that there might be the horrible story of someone else getting one (and wasn’t disappointed) but didn’t think it would go into detail. I was wrong. It was horrific. That aside, it was an extremely interesting book. It was weird to think that it was in a relatively “modern” viewpoint. Reading about Nasarian’s time in the bush could have been anytime in the last hundred or so years. It’s not until the end of the book when they started talking about western music did I realize that all of this took place in the 1980’s and 1990’s. That was an interesting twist though, to realize that those sort of things were happening just twenty or thirty years ago.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5