Makeda by Randall Robinson is my current read. Years ago I had read The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks and The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to One Another and am a big fan of his mind and involvement in Pan-African world affairs. What sets Makeda apart is it is a novel…and a novel with a beautiful cover (mine is a virtual one as the book is on my Kindle). Learning to discern which books deserve to occupy hard-copy space and which should be “clouded” on the Kindle is the new challenge since I’ve gone all tablet-reader.
I’m 2/3rds through the book, but here are my thoughts thus far in random order:
1. It is a coming of age story of a Black man written by a Black man. Antithetical to Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas, but I couldn’t readily come up with another work of fiction that meets this criteria.
2. The subtle snarky wit displayed by the main character, Graylon March, through his flat, controlled, and intellectualizing view of life reminds me of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (one of my absolute favorite books).
3. I’m also imagining an aging Robinson being guided to write this book as a way to do his part to counteract any gains lost, any momentum lost in knowledge for future generations.
4. It reminds me of Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due with the imparting of knowledge while telling a complicated story.
5. I’m also reminded of a statement by Toni Morrison in an interview…on the importance of having the presence of the elders in her stories.
Makeda is the title and also the name of Graylon’s grandmother, the single most person in his life he felt affirmed by growing up. He has a nuclear family. His father works in the insurance business and his mother is a housewife and his older brother is the more out-going, confident one as Graylon seems him. The one his father is most proud of according to Graylon.
The first few chapters are a soft opening spotted with a young elementary age Graylon who sits daily with Makeda in her parlor. It is a mutually loving relationship. As the story unfolds, Graylon’s morose views and thoughts take hold and one time I felt like I was trapped by his self-absorption. His goal is to be a writer and although I tired a bit of his rigorous thoughts, I am reminded of how I’ve always tended to pick an idea apart and turn it every which way inside of my own head.
The story is made heavy by Graylon’s views and his growing behavior of closing himself off from others as made complicated by the tensions, namely his father, found in his family life.
I’m currently at the point where Graylon is on the other side of his college career (so unlike Bigger Thomas’ eh?) and in Mali to find connections to Makeda’s dream-stories of past life regressions…stories she has only shared with Graylon and who Graylon hopes to write about. Makeda and Graylon are shared spirits…Makeda is blind and can see and travel so much in her dreams and Graylon who can see and is alienated by his surroundings, cannot understand.