A-dZiko Simba Gegele is a renowned award-winning poet, among other things. Add novelist to the list as, recently, she launched her first novel, All Over Again, published by Blouse & Skirts Books, an imprint of Blue Moon Publishing.
To say the least, All Over Again is a triumphant first effort that was influenced by Gegele's then pre-pubescent son's interest in the opposite sex and her rising phone bills. This, she said, coincided with her interaction and working with youths in the Caribbean. Her son was about 13 going on to 14 by then.
What she saw, she said, was a "constriction of their emotional landscape". They were socialised to suppress their emotions, except anger. She wanted to say to boys, and men, that emotions, even anger, are normal and human.
So the idea of a story of a 12-year-old boy etched itself into her brain for sometime, and so, she said, she was compelled to write. She delved into her vast repertoire of imagination it seems. And what she came up with is a colourful and dynamic youngster on the cusp of puberty, manhood if you will, whose antics, bravados, misdeeds, embarrassments and successes stretch from home to school, and from school to home.
Powerful, subliminal messages
Told mostly from a second-person perspective, Gegele, the poet, used simple poetic lilt to convey subliminal, but powerful messages of the challenges of male maturation and determination. Gegele said she used the second-person point of view because she "wanted readers to see the characters" as well as identify with them. So she engages him, directs him, telling him what to do, how to feel, how to think, how to react, how to relate to the other characters. And by doing so, she brings him to life.
For instance, in directing the youngster in a dramatic moment in Chapter 6, Gegele tells him: "You look at the microphone. You look at the eyes. You look at Linford Chance. You look back at the microphone. You grab hold of the microphone with one hand and the microphone stand with the other and you lean forward. You lean right up close to the microphone, so close that your mouth is almost touching it and then you take another deep breath and again ... ."
The novel targets younger teenagers, and so it was written to be fun, interesting and thought-provoking. But All over Again, because of its rich creativeness, inter alia, is a pleasurable offering also to the young-at-heart and the mellowed. The apropos use of colloquial expressions, short phrases, and repetitions is excellent in telling the 12 stories that make up this gem, which was completed 13 to 14 years after the first story was written. Ironically, that story is the last to be told, and is the eponym of the novel, which ends like this:
"You feel weak and worthless and when Kenny gives her his gift you look around for a deep, deep pit to throw yourself into. But then she smiles at you. Christina Parker smiles at you. You, boy, no one else. And all by itself your chest expands and you feel like you are Superman, like you are riding down Valley Road with no hands, like you did fight and overcome and succeed and you know ... you know ... you would do it all over again."
All Over Again is the sort of book that makes you want to read it all over again.