The Prophet of Zongo StreetBy Mohammed Naseehu Ali
In the tradition of rich African storytelling that mixes myth with modernity, The Prophet of Zongo Street is a dazzling collection of stories that calls to mind Ben Okri and Chinua Achebe. Mohammed Naseehu Ali, the tradition's acclaimed new practitioner, offers up ten powerful and beautifully rendered tales. Set primarily on the fictitious Zongo Street -- a close-knit community of wonderfully quirky characters who hold tight to superstition, religion, and family -- these stories are anchored by the uproarious, the embarrassing, the poignant, and the rawest moments of life. Peopling this street are unforgettable portraits of humanity: Suraju, Zongo Street's King Drunkard, whose extravagant scheme to make a buck leaves him contemplating the afterlife; and Kumi, the enigmatic Prophet of Zongo Street, who teaches a young boy to finally ask questions of his traditions and beliefs. Across the ocean, in the story "Live-in," we find Shatu, a maid on Long Island, who left Zongo Street for the promises of America, only to find herself lonely, separated from her family, and cut off from her community. In "Rachmaninov," the well-meaning Felix struggles with America's love of the exotic as he makes his way in New York City. Desperately poor and whipped from one revolution to the next, the men, women, and children of Zongo Street nonetheless maintain their good humor and philosophic outlook, even as they question the very bedrock that underlies their modern culture. Confidently written and highly imaginative, The Prophet of Zongo Street heralds a new voice in international fiction.