Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: "Midnight And The Meaning of Love" by Sister Souljah

This book. I swear.

If I didn't remember what literary inspiration felt extraordinaire Sister Souljah reminded me yesterday when I finished reading her novel "Midnight and the Meaning of Love." I felt great. Refreshed. Pensive. Motivated. Thankful. I probably sat silent for a good 15 minutes after reading the last words, just taking in the essence of the story, the power of her words, and the extreme level of gratitude for the fact that I was able to read a novel that would make me seriously consider the effect of my own words and my intentions as an author. It doesn't happen often.

Last year I wrote a review of Midnight (A Gangster Love Story), and in re-reading the review, I've remembered that her previous books had the exact same effect on me when I finished reading them. My feelings were similar, and my praise was echoed. This is her standard: greatness. Every time.

If the characters Midnight and Akemi inspired me last time with their love story...this book took my admiration to a whole other level. I have never read a character as strong as Midnight: mentally, physically, and spiritually. The way Sister Souljah has created this young Sudanese-American man with total integrity makes it difficult to understand why someone would choose to be any other way. Rooted in the disciplines of Islam, in martial arts, and in his family, Midnight is a prototype for a "strong man," caregiver, protector, and head of the family. And he still has not even reached the age of 20.

The character of the young Japanese wife of Midnight--Akemi--is so pure, so creative and genuine in her emotions that it provides a clear example of love. Authentic love, and the power of love as a raw emotion. Sister Souljah's descriptions of Akemi make you realize exactly why Midnight loves her, and literally travels the world to save her from her father (Naoko Nakamura) who has kidnapped her and brought her back to her native land.

The introduction of a new character to the story, the Japanese/African Chiasa, was an interesting surprise, and brought forth a unique outcome as she became integrated into the lives of Midnight and Akemi through translation, through comraderie, and her shared skills and training with Midnight.

So while "Midnight (A Gangster Love Story)" was indeed a great love story, this follow-up novel provided a different kind of enlightenment. I think what moved me most about reading this book was how much I was learning about various cultures, and how I truly felt as though I too were exploring the mountains of Japan, and the streets of Korea. I felt as though I too were fasting for Ramadan, and forcing myself to think like a ninja and be ultra-conscious of my surroundings and the movements around me.

These characters were so strong in their convictions, their actions, and their religion. So dedicated to their families. So tied to their culture. I was fascinated. From beginning to end.

What really caught me too was the intense look at Japanese culture, and even an introduction to Korean culture. I felt like I was there. And for the first time ever, I felt like I actually wanted to BE there. Her descriptions were so vivid, from the long flight, to the airport, and the specific details of the sounds, sights, and even smells of each city within Japan fascinated me beyond. Sister Souljah has this amazing ability to draw you into her books and into her world, and even something as unfamiliar as Asia no longer seemed like a place I didn't understand or couldn't relate to. In her descriptions, she made me want to learn for myself, and see and feel for myself.

The beauty of the Muslim faith was also brought to life through her words, and the actions of Midnight, and the thoughts and values of his beliefs, and the way they manifested into his daily decisions and ideologies. I understood why he wanted his wife to be covered and out of view from male visual consumption. I understood why (although he was traveling) he was still compelled to continue his fasting for Ramadan. I understood why he had the urge to take on a second wife, and why his religion was the guide for his decisions and practices.

Man! Sister Souljah went hard. Into everything. Like a good writer should. And it's not just the intense level of research, understanding, and descrptions that moved was her choice of words. The flow of the story. The tone. The pace and composition of the sentences. The length of the book. The careful thought and planning that it took to construct Midnight's quest, and the details and intricacies of the story line. Everything!

It was never obvious. As much as it was a novel, and a quest, and a mission of no point was I able to predict or pre-determine what might happen, what could happen, or what should happen. I allowed this writer to take me on the journey with full trust that I would not be disappointed with where she was leading me.

It gave me chills, because as a writer...that is your mission. To make your reader FEEL something. Whether it's self-reflection, enlightenment, or even just the pleasure of being lost in a fictional world...this book was fantastic on so many levels.

I'm gonna go back and read "The Coldest Winter Ever" and put together the pieces that I've now learned while reading the prequels to her original tale. I'll wait patiently until January when her next book is released, based on Portia Santiago!

I have a feeling that the Midnight series has another good 3-5 books forthcoming...I want to know what happens when Midnight, Akemi, and Chiasa return to New York. I want to see the relationships mature into adulthood. I want to see Midnight's younger sister Naja grow up, and develop in her brother's teachings. I want to see how the harsh environment of New York affects Akemi, and if Chiasa is brave enough to battle the every day nuisances of the city. While this book was complete on it's own...the characters were so powerful that I'm sure Sister Souljah will not allow her readers to miss a moment of their life's journey.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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