Monday, May 20, 2019

Game of Thrones Finale

In my opinion, this is the best shot from Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Somewhat underwhelmed by the finale, because it all felt so rushed, but I'm excited for what the novels will bring. Winds/Dream. :-)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Devoured this scrumptious morsel in but a few hours and still left a little hungry.

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sharp Objects is a solid first novel, to which I would have given a higher rating, were it not for the summary technique in the conclusion that robs the reader of the experience of that year of discovery. Flynn does everything else right. Her characters are evocative, and the setting of the town is lush and vivid. The murders percolate in the consciousness while the protagonist lurches absentmindedly forward into danger. You will find yourself screaming at her not to be so stupid, courting peril with such intimacy, and it's so in character. It's damn near a 5-star book until the last few chapters and I still enjoyed it a lot (3-stars means I liked it :-{) It's just not as good as it could have been, even though we are given a long, lovely tease. Sigh.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time) on Matriarchies in Finn

I'm just posting this so I don't lose it. --- For Anonymous-George, long ago I saw one of the first, I believe, novels about a young woman who wasn't allowed to use magic or whatever because she was a woman, and the thought occurred to me as to how it might go if men were the ones who were denied the right to do magic. Or whatever. I hate using the word magic. From that long ago thought grew the One Power divided into saidin and saidar with the male half tainted and the reasons for and results of it being tainted. Now in most of these societies...I did not and do not view them as matriarchal. I attempted to design societies that were as near gender balanced as to rights, responsibilities and power as I could manage. It doesn't all work perfectly. People have bellybuttons. If you want to see someone who always behaves logically, never tells small lies or conceals the truth in order to put the best face for themselves on events, and never, ever tries to take advantage of any situation whatsoever, then look for somebody without a bellybutton. The real surprise to me was that while I was designing these gender balanced societies, people were seeing matriarchies. --- Jordan is often criticized for his portrayal of women and how he overcompensates by creating matriarchies. His perspective is very interesting (to me.)

The History of White Onliness in America

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American RacismSundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A long horrific account of America's deliberate segregation, its underlying current of white-onliness, born out of Loewen's personal journey of awakening to the fact he was surrounded by Sundown Towns, those locales so hostile to blacks that the communities orchestrate ways to keep them out. It's a long, hard slog, filled with disheartening stories, marks of shame of our past, of our present really, but books like this are so important both as eye-openers and motivators. Nobody conscious to American culture--again not just its history! We are talking about the present in many instances here--can deny these exclusionary practices, but Loewen focuses on the scale using census data and adds anecdotes that personalize the experience.

I read a lot of reviews here that mention how terrible reading this makes everyone feel, but for my part, I am overwhelmed by optimism, because it is clear how far we have come as a people. That we still have far to go is unquestionable, but great strides are being made, especially by the young. Books like this one are likely one of the factors. The history we teach is the one our children learn, so we should all thank Loewen for his huge effort.

THAT being said, yes, it's a slog, but it's a whole lot harder being one of the characters in the anecdotes than a reader in the 21st century.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 2, 2019

When They Have Taken the Magic

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An important story written from a vantage point above a landscape of suffering and tears. Adeyemi does an excellent job with setting, painting a colorful mosaic rich in magical realism but grounded in pain and tragedy. I especially found compelling her use of West African religious motifs and language, much of which I recognized from my studies of Brazilian culture and its African roots.

Adeyemi uses 3rd person limited to great effect, allowing us to see the conflict of Orïsha-- essentially a violent suppression of the Divîners (a now-oppressed class who once practiced magic given by the gods) by the Kosidan, which are muggly-types--from three different angles. The first pov belongs to Zélie, an adolescent whose mother was a great Magi before King Saran crushed the power of the Divîners. She is the main protagonist and though a great warrior and able to draw from a deep well of magical power, her flaws and failures often dictate her actions. Her uncertainty and fear, both very realistic character features, are offset by an impulsive nature that so defies reason, that--given her age--lends even more belief. Her journey is a horror story that I could never do justice to. I have seen many ask if this is young adult fiction, if it is appropriate for children... It is, even with these horrors, because we as a society need to own them to move forward both as a people and as ourselves. Zélie's motivation is often pure survival, but the greatest depredations she suffers (and they are horrid) are merely magnifications of the daily experiences of real people. That's the story beneath this story, the one Adeyemi is telling us to great effect.

The other two povs are from the Kosidan oppressor class. One is Princess Amari, Saran's daughter, isolated from the world but with an endearing streak of devotion. She is the accidental iconoclast, spurred to rebellion by the death of her favorite slave. To me she represented a path of hope and sincerity, one of possibilities, but her journey is also fraught with pain. She bears the scars of an upbringing that sharpens her into a transformative weapon that is fell enough to effect change. I was cheering throughout the story to have Zélie and Amari realize they were made for each other and still remain hopeful despite the evidence to the contrary. Honestly, I felt deep frustration as the traditional relationships were plumbed instead. I get that it's a coming of age story, but really... Really? Really really? These budding relationships felt a little cringeworthy and forced.

Which leads me to the third pov, Amari's brother Inan, Saran's tool, who leads a conflicted life of self-hatred combined with bigotry and ignorance. He is the perfect villain and also an ideal tool for redemption. In him, I see all the flaws of our society articulated. I don't know if this was Adeyemi's intention, but it doesn't matter: a bullseye is a bullseye. I'm not going deeper into his character because though the plot is ostensibly about bringing magic back to Orïsha, it is mostly about the people and how they get all their sharp angles fitting together. Tragedy spills blood, and blood is a bad lubricant, especially old rusting blood for generations.

This book is a celebration of the brave, but it was also made for the meek. It's to shake us all from meekness. It's already a great story but it's not done working on those sharp angles. I'm so looking forward to what comes.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Julius Caesar for my Linguistics class.

Royal Shakespeare performance:

Part 1


 Part 2


Shared Links:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

If You Think Science Fiction Should Make You Ask Yourself Tough Questions...

The City in the Middle of the NightThe City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's tough to review this one without spoilers and still convey the essentials, because the worldbuilding is so unique, so let me give a one-liner first and you can choose to move on if you wish: I give this an unqualified recommendation! Don't wait. Go read it. This is a brilliant story with identifiable characters (even the aliens) and a clever, twisted plot. AND, yeah, the world Anders creates is hostile, alien, and is written so you are immersed at once.

I'll still try to avoid spoilers, but if I fail, all apologies...

Great character-driven story set on a tidally locked planet, January, the target of human colonization, which is also the home of an intelligent civilization of the Genet, who are completely integrated into the forbidding planet's ecosystem. The story focuses on two pov characters, Sophie and Mouth (forever in pursuit of her real name... I especially liked how the *innocent* traveler actions were juxtaposed with the impact on the Genet), who are intertwined through many threads and a supporting cast of friends and betrayers. I'm disappointed the story ended, because I hoped we might return to January to see how they all work out.

It's more than that, though. Sophie's relationships, both with her own kind and the Genet, delve into the nature of friendship, personal sacrifice, and (for a brief crucial moment) rejection of an idealized, conjured perfection. Sophie's loss becomes our loss, her pain ours. Anders makes you feel it, but the writing is clinical. For better or worse, neither Sophie nor Mouth are ones to second guess their conclusions.

Anders's worldbuilding is intricate and convinces, the future history frightens (yet is also hopeful in how the characters respond to adversity), and the alien "persistent mayfly" culture is brilliant in execution. Even before there was writing to make it permanent, humans preserved our culture through storytelling. The Genet keep history alive literally the same way, just to an extreme, because each one experiences everything always. In fact, the book is much about our perceptions of history, because Mouth's tribe also had their version locked in the tower.

It's a very disarming book, and you'll think about it after you read it and ask yourself about your tribe's impact on the world, what your history means (the pluses and minuses), and whether it's worth fighting and killing for...

I swallowed this book whole and after moving on (but have I really? LOL), I realize I'm still famished. More please. ;-)

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Talking Heads as a 3 piece band in black and white from Toronto 1977.

Talking Heads
A-Space Gallery
Toronto ON

00:00:00 Artists Only
00:04:59 The Girls Want to Be With the Girls
00:08:41 The Book I Read
00:13:42 I Wish You Wouldn't Say That
00:17:26 Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
00:20:15 No Compassion
00:24:41 fixing the drums
00:25:50 Questions for Lovers
00:28:45 Who Is It?
00:31:33 Happy Day
00:36:19 Love -> Building on Fire
00:40:01 I'm Not in Love
00:45:47 Pulled Up
00:50:50 Psycho Killer
00:55:04 Take Me to the River
00:59:42 1-2-3 Red Light/
01:01:40 Warning Sign


H.264 MPEG-4 AVC

Video attributes:
format: black & white
aspect ratio: 4:3
picture resolution: 720x480
frame rate: 29.97 fps
bitrate: 2465 kbps

Audio attributes:
sampling rate: 48 kHz
bitrate: 317 kbps
output: 2 channel mono

Thanks to BFOQ for providing this historic recording.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - A sad story of love and revenge redeemed by beasts who shall never be forgotten.

The Forgotten Beasts of EldThe Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the voice of the narrator, the straightforward unapologetic fairy tale weave. I enjoyed the transformation of Sybel, how she loses her naïveté to the Eld version of the Great Game, and I mourn her loss of the magical world she left behind, but the beasts rescue her in the end.

Caveat: The story has begun to show its age, especially when Coren *slaps some sense* into Sybel. That's straight out of a John Wayne western. LOL. Up until that point this was a solid 4-star story, but this error was regretful.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Modern Fairytale Explores the Union of Magic and Science.

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the birds... is such an enchanting story, a true modern fairy tale that still finds time to dig deep into doomsday ethics and build venn diagrams of science and magic. The characters spoke to me. I love how well it is researched, and the edginess of society's dynamics that Anders portrays. These characters feel real to me, even the machines. Also, Peregrine's consciousness, how it uploads itself, reminded me a lot of Stross's machines in Accelerando, which stroked my programmer itch. What an incredible book. I guzzled it. I've done nothing else since last night but read. Ahhhhhhhh...
So good

View all my reviews

Friday, December 28, 2018

Let's Be Holographic for a Planck Time

One of the foundations of my science fiction and fantasy world, Tarn, is its ability to be defined by either science fiction or fantasy, depending on the perspective of the character. I also play with parallel universes and manifestations of the same character in parallel universes.

To engineer the story correctly I've needed to update my cosmological knowledge, especially in terms of unification theories, such as string theory, emergence theory, and other holographic representations of the universe. I'm going to post a few of the videos I've used here. Here is my favorite so far. It's the express pass version, a mainstream video to be sure, very accessible but introducing concepts that are good fun (like E8 lattice crystals etc):

So basically, the theory is our universe is a holographic representation based on a specific crystal, the E8 Lattice Crystal (shape is E8, and it’s projected into a 4D quasi crystal then convert that to a 3D quasicrystal.) Its shape is a Gosset Polytope of 230 vertices in 8 dimensions. When it is projected into 4d it creates two shapes that have a proportion equal to the golden ratio 0.618.

Space and time are constructed through pixels of Planck Constants, because reality cannot be smaller than the Planck Length it must be pixelated. In essence, this defines space as an accumulation of Planck Time and Planck Length, by stipulating their existence as the smallest unit, and therefore the universe is pixelated. It seems somewhat a tautology to me, and I'd love to be moved from this perspective. Also, after studying the emergence theorem and how the dimensions are assigned, I feel they are arbitrary to some degree. I will elaborate later.

One interesting aspect from the video is the role of consciousness, a pure observational role. The universe exists because it is observed.

We need to be skeptical. To help let's review Neil Degrasse Tyson discussing eyewitness observations:

So, this is a great introduction to reality, consciousness, and emergence theory:

A theory of everything where the universe is an expression of a language with Klee Irwin that also discusses free will, consciousness, and the perception of reality:

We need consciousness in the universe to observe the universe, but was it really? Let's put consciousness in the barrel:

Now this may seem pretty far-fetched but if we look at the universe as a collection of information, our perception of said universe, what we call "reality," does resolve to our ability to observe, which is very near where we started.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years. History and culture written in thread.

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early TimesWomen's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This really helped consolidate my knowledge of the development of human civilization. Its use of language along with archeological evidence reinforces the research I've pursued on language origins.

As a world builder of science fiction and fantasy, Barber's research fills in the rest of the story that stone & metallic artifacts do not disclose. Moreover, the author gets hands on and reconstructs the crafts of the past. Altogether, it is a brilliant endeavor.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Beauty and Glamour

Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1)Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this story. My favorite character was Mr. Vincent's muse.

Kowal constructs a fantasy world atop Austen's propriety-infused England, one where beauty and magic (glamours) are coupled. The story is a romance, but there is drama and numerous plot twists as well. Kowal's mention of Radcliffe's work conjured recollections of The Italian's action, and indeed the climax of the story is fraught with heroics. I was not expecting to be so enthralled but am so happy I made this journey with Jane.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Eagle Longings in Contrast

Some days the sun beats down like it never will rain again, and everyone tastes flakes of rusty earth upon their tongues. My mother and I are hanging sheets we have just washed in the Rio Doce. I yawn into the sunlight.
“Shola,” my mother says. “Did I see you staring after Akin this morning when the men were headed to the fields? You must not watch him, or he will get strange ideas, and he is a good man but too impulsive. He may be trouble, Shola. Iranola is a better match for you.”
She speaks in a hushed tone in Yoruba, our language for secrets. Most of the slaves speak Bantu at Fazenda Carvalho. The masters speak only Portuguese and with their whips, not that they whip many of us in the big house—we are valuable and docile—but when they thrash our men, they make us watch.
“Iya, I did not even see Akin this morning,” I say, an automatic protest as I suppress the memory of how his muscles bristled and the glistening of his skin. Oh, how I could nestle in the crook of one of those thick arms surrounding me! And such a shining smile, though I often wonder why anyone should smile when setting off to harvest shriveled cane beneath a glaring sun and harsher overseer. Our work is long suffering, but it’s not as awful as theirs.
I am fifteen years-old. All my life I have belonged to Seu Francisco Carvalho and his family. I toil for them, and they treat me well, so I have never dreamed of fleeing. And even if I wished to run away, I never would. Families of escaped slaves are beaten, and my two goofy brothers, Tayo and Folu, are so young. Besides, Dona Maleficent favors my mother so the boys will work in the mill, not the fields. In the meantime, they do chores while we wash the rusty dirt from the sheets, towels, clothes, rugs, and curtains.
“I am not blind, Shola,” my mother says, recalling me to the present. “You need a good boy like Iranola, one who will not cause you trouble.”
Sometimes I wish I could disappear.
One starry night I met Iranola, who always wears a silly grin. I was returning from the house after scrubbing the patio, the same I am standing on now, and he was coming back from the sty, where he tends master’s fat porkers. A gentle creature, he has a way with animals. He stinks like them too. That night he rushed past without looking at me. I stamped my foot and pointed to the sky.
“Do you see that?”
He stopped at once.
“It’s pretty,” he said.
“Not my finger. In the sky? Do you recognize it?”
I was pointing at the harvest morning star, what we call the eagle star. I longed for him to reply, “That is Oshun, a beautiful woman shining in glittering yellow, a dress or a wide skirt. It doesn’t matter what she wears. She is the orixá of love, beauty, and sex.”
“That’s a star,” he said instead, and so I told him everything about her, how she rules over marriage, making babies, and the essence of a woman. I took my time to explain. When I finished he said, “It still surely looks just like a star, doesn’t it?”
In our world, family antecedents or characteristics dictate a child’s name. “Akin” means brave or heroic, and “Iranola” implies he is from a wealthy family, and maybe back in Africa he was. Also, Akin is a mulatto, but Iranola is all Yoruba. His children will never be free.
I was big for my age and have danced with the moon since I turned nine, another secret I was never allowed to tell other girls until it was obvious. I did not understand why I must be quiet, until Binta, a Bantu girl only a year older than I, disappeared. My mother would only say, “The Moon’s path is full of thorns.”
A few weeks later I overheard Bimpe, Iranola’s mother, our blabbermouth, telling Iya that Binta now lived in the Casa Cor de Rosa, and how Seu Francisco bragged to Dona Maleficent what a good price she had brought.
“They’ve ruined her,” Iya said. She spat and cursed.
I regard Iya now with my best imitation of her face then.
“I am not afraid of Akin’s trouble,” I tell her and catch an ember of fire in her eyes.
My sister Ifedayo—love becomes joy—appears. The last few days and nights they are tending Dona Maleficent, who has dengue fever.
“Iya, come quickly. She is much worse,” Ifedayo says, and mother follows her inside. I lean against a wall, watching the farm lulled by the sun into its sleepy rhythm. Iranola waves as he heads off to feed master’s pigs. I yawn again, and Mother rushes back to the porch.
“Don’t just stand there. Fetch some water!” she says.
There are three fingers of water in a glass bottle on the sill.
"Take this, Iya. I will fetch more by the river."
"Bring a lot, Shola."
"I will. I promise."
She shakes her head.
“The poor thing won’t last the night unless the fever breaks.”
By the well Akin stands with the other men. He is the most handsome, tallest, and strongest too, even though he is also nearly the youngest. Our gazes lock, and he sidles up beside me.
“Oh, Akin,” I say, feigning disinterest. “I didn’t even notice you.”
“Quiet,” he says. “Did you ever hear of Cumbe?”
It is a word we do not usually say, but somewhere in the interior, across the endless water, Kalunga, lies a mocambo, a free village without white people and whips, named Cumbe.
“No,” I tell him.
“I want to take you there with me. We will start a family and someday a tribe of our own. We will be free, Shola. Do you want to be free?”
My heart races. It was all I ever wanted to be free and belong to this wonderful man.
“Why me?”
He smiles a fence of gleaming white.
“Because you are so pretty. And I am also handsome. You will be a good mother for my sons.”
“But you do love me?”
“I want you to be mine.”
The briefest second passes before I acquiesce.
“I’ll come with you,” I tell him, and he lifts me off my feet, planting his lips upon mine. He seizes my tongue and sucks it like a starving baby suckling. Then his tongue passes through my teeth, digging into my mouth, as if he wants to lick my tonsils. He wants me to suck back but I cannot even breathe.
“You must never even look at another man,” he says once I am returned to the ground.
“I won’t. I promise.”
A nervous silence ensues. Several of the other field hands pass by, and one beats his chest. I feel his gaze traverse my body, but he speaks to Akin instead.
“Akin! Akin! You are our hero!”
My man beats his chest in return and flexes his biceps.
“Yes, I am!” he says.
The field hands clap and sing a song praising him as they depart. We are left alone.
“When should we run?” I ask him.
“Tomorrow night. After the moon sets, wait for me by the stone bridge. I will be nearby in the fields.”
“What about the dogs?”
When slaves flee, our master sets teams of ferocious dogs after us, along with hunters. Nine times out of ten the fugitives return, badly bitten, their skin shaped into bloody clumps by cats o' nine tails.
“Look at me,” he says. “No, no. Harder. Do you see how I am? I am not afraid of dogs. I can tear them apart.”
“But their teeth—”
“I have teeth too!”
His chest pumps. He is pure muscle from shoulders to abdomen and further… All along his legs lie muscles, drive, and a latent power that could awaken Exu himself. My logic melts.
“I will be there,” I say, and he nods and leaves me, headed back to the fields.
I pump the water from the well and return with a big bucket to the house. As I pass by, the doctor is speaking with my master. Lately, the doctor comes every day.
“But it is a matter of life or death,” Seu Francisco says. “When the harvest comes I will have money to pay you.”
“Can’t you give some small token as a guarantee? It doesn’t have to be much.”
“I have no money.”
“It’s no problem. I will visit Dona Maleficent now. I trust you will find something.”
I waited for them to enter, but they urged me forward, lingering behind. The doctor coughed, my master grunted, and both laughed. I shivered as an icicle sutured my spine.
“She will need a thorough examination,” he said.
“Of course,” said Seu Francisco. “There are others too, but this one is prime.”
Dona Maleficent’s room stinks of disease. The curtains are drawn, and a single kerosene lamp burns on a night stand. She lies in a soaked sheet, eyes unseeing, pale and exhausted, resigned to death.
I set the water on a table by the door. One of my aunts wets a towel and lays it upon our senhora’s forehead. The doctor brushes her away and fishes in his case for leeches, which he applies to her forearms and thighs. He examines her chest. Her breath comes in gasps, punctuated by trembling.
She is dying. It won’t be long.
“She is much better,” the doctor pronounces. “By tomorrow she will be well.”
Seu Francisco smiles, and they talk a while about leeches and caring for them once they fall off.
“Don’t worry,” Seu Francisco tells him. “I will explain what they must do in simple words.”
The doctor clears his throat.
“That small token?”
Seu Francisco drags me by the hair out of the room. Iya looks up, eyes flashing, and Ifedayo’s do too, hers expressing the pain I am feeling, as if she feels it herself. I am taken into the master’s bedroom.
“You need to see this,” he says, and tears open my dress. I cup one hand across my breasts and the other across my toto. “What do you think of that?”
The doctor touches my upturned nipple clinically, a fierce lust in his eyes.
“By the prophet’s beard,” he says, amused.
“Please, no.” My voice is the smallest protest.
Seu Francisco slaps me across the cheek and shoves me away. My cheek burns and body tenses, but I know better than to fight. I huddle in the corner, covering myself.
“Keep your mouth shut,” Seu Francisco growls and turns to the doctor. “Would you like to see more?”
“No, I am satisfied,” he says. “If I don’t want her, I’ll send her to Cor da Rosa.”
“So, you will return tomorrow?”
“Yes,” the doctor says. “By then your wife will be fine. I will collect my leeches and this tiny treasure too.”
They clomp each other on the back, shake hands, and leave. When my sister and mother enter, I stop my tears and keep quiet. Not only am I afraid of Seu Francisco, but I’m also worried what my mother or Akin might do to avenge me, if they knew the destiny those two white demons have planned. Besides, I still have plans of my own. I am leaving tomorrow night with Akin. Soon I will be free.
I will tell of my orixá now, Oxumaré, the trickster, who rules the rainbow and the snake. When he dances, he traces rainbows in the air, gifts to the heavens and the earth. He is about mystery, art, and motion, and I do not resemble him, for I love things of substance, that which needs no explanation like the ecstasy of water on a parched throat, a shooting star sent by Oxalá across the heavens, or the way newborns cling to their mothers. I like what is real, but Oxumaré loves playing games and making puzzles. He came to me. I did not go to him.
The overseer is drunk, and most of the men are at Cor da Rosa, because Seu Francisco is celebrating, confident Dona Maleficent will recover. The leeches are fat, but when I last see her, she is paler than ever, and her breathing is labored. I still believe she will soon be dead.
Our master is Christian and would kill us if he knew we practiced worshiping our gods, even if it were to help Dona Maleficent, so that night we gather secretly at the terreiro, a place where we make promises and beckon to the orixás. It is a stone building where cane is stored, but the harvest has been poor, so it is empty. Inside, we have drums and smoke. I never talk to Naade, our guide, or our Pai Santo, Abaiade, a slave who was once flogged to death after escaping, but reborn the same night I entered the world. I love and respect all the orixás, but I never ask for promises. All I do is dance, sing, and try to be one with all.
Oxumaré had other plans. He is together with me, closer than ever before. No, I am not possessed, but he watches me, scrutinizing, wondering how he can play some dangerous game, while all around me words swirl and colors dance. My people appeal to Omulu, who cures fevers and vanquishes epidemics, but my contrary mind is not with them. If Dona Maleficent is cured, Seu Francisco will give me to the doctor, and I will never see Akin again.
But I do not want her to die! She is the reason my brothers will not work in the fields, so she must live, but not get better yet.
This is a trick, I tell myself, but my voice is not mine. This is what I do.
“No,” I say, but I mean yes. Yes. YES.
Dance with me then.

* * * * *

The next morning while I sweep the patio, the doctor comes, but Dona Maleficent is worse. The leeches are dead. Seu Francisco is furious.
“You promised!”
He shoves the doctor against the wall. The little man blanches and mumbles gibberish. Seu Francisco knocks him to the floor.
“My wife is dying, and you are a useless turd.”
Our master throws the leeches at him.
“Take your fucking blood worms and leave.”
Seu Francisco is halfway to the door when the doctor calls him.
“Tomorrow, she will be better,” he says.
“I am done listening to you.”
“Senhor Carvalho, I have done my best for your wife. She will improve. Trust me.”
Seu Francisco rubs his chin and looks away.
“I prayed for her in the chapel,” the doctor says. “God is on our side, just as always.”
I keep sweeping, half imagining rainbows left behind in my strokes.
See, you are an artist, I tell myself, but again not in my voice.
“You promised to pay me,” the doctor says. “I have to buy new leeches now.”
Seu Francisco does not even glance at me.
“Come collect her tomorrow,” he says and shuts the door, leaving me outside with the doctor. He approaches me, so close his stench wrinkles my nose.
“You will enjoy living with me,” he promises. “I know you Africans fuck like bunny rabbits. You will be my little heifer. My studs will keep you bred, and your children will make me rich.”
I lowered my head, the way I am supposed to do.
“You don’t say much, do you? Are you stupid or just shy?”
I shake my head. My tears are welling, but I must not let him see.
“It’s just fine if you are shy. You will learn to scream in time.”
He pulls me close, his hands busy on my body, his firmness against my belly, but Ifedayo’s appearance saves me.
“Shola, you are supposed to be working,” she says, grabbing my broom from where I left it against a column. She swings it over my head, and I fall back. “Iya wants you right now. And you better run, because she is so angry!”
I fly off the patio into the house, but my mother is just sitting beside a raving Dona Maleficent, cradling one hand. Her face is healthier, and it is strange hearing our chants coming from a white woman’s throat, but I recognize our voice in hers and Oxumaré’s too.
Tonight, you must go to Cumbe. Or you will die.
That night I wait for Iya to sleep before I tell her goodbye. She lies there beaming, apparently careless, and I wonder about her dreams, how she always sees the good in the world. My aunt once told me my mother watched father beaten to death without once averting her gaze. He and four others had rebelled after the Muslim uprising of 1835. (Oxalá, the greatest of all orixás, is also Allah.) I kiss her once on the forehead and sneak away. Her voice arrests me at the door.
“You are a good daughter, Shola. May all the orixás protect you.”
An hour later I am by the stone bridge, holding a tiny bag of my belongings: a spare dress, a few colorful stones, a curious bone, a seashell I once traded for, and a hemp rope. When the moon sets, the stars are blazing like a symphony of will-o’-the-wisps.
Akin does not come. My mother was right about him.
I stand by the road choosing how I am to die. If I return to the farm, the doctor will take me away, breed me, and sell my children, but if I walk down the road, the dogs will tear me to shreds when they catch me in the morning. I take a few steps and finally let the stored tears crest and roll down my cheeks. On the other side of the bridge, I pause and glance back towards the farm. Someone is coming down the road, but it is so dark I cannot tell who it is.
Of course, it must be Akin. He has come to save me after all. He is just late. I hide off the road, thinking of surprising him. He will get an earful from me.
But it is Iranola. I burst from my spot and confront him. Stunned, his orbs are like two full moons.
“Where is Akin?”
“He is supposed to take me beyond Kalunga to Cumbe.”
Iranola nods.
“Dona Maleficent’s fever broke,” he says. “The master’s house is a drunken riot. Some of the slaves are there too. Akin was drinking cachaça with Seu Francisco.”
I cross my arms.
“I won’t go back,” I tell him.
“I can’t take you anyhow,” he says. “I am escaping to Cumbe myself. I am too proud to be a slave.”
“You’re not afraid?”
“It doesn’t matter. It is my will to go. The voice of freedom sings in my head. My orixá does not let me sleep anymore.”
“How will you find your way?”
He chuckles, and I can barely contain my annoyance.
“I will walk away and let my path find me.”
I look skyward and roll my eyes, but he does not see. He is walking down the road.
Akin is so handsome. He is strong and tall. I belong to him. I am sure he will love and protect me. I only have to wait.
Iranola does not realize I am hurrying after him. When he pauses a few minutes later at a fork in the road, I confront him again.
“I thought you were waiting for Akin,” he said.
“I have decided to wait for him in Cumbe. So I guess I will go along with you.”
He produces a sweetsop, opens it, and hands me half. It is so luscious and soft, and I am starving. We walk in the starlight, eating fruit and spitting seeds. We walk all night long.
By noon, I have been sleepwalking for hours. Sometimes Iranola guides me, but most often I plod on behind him, watching his back. Storm clouds are gathering on every horizon. The sky is pregnant with electricity and ozone.
The dogs are approaching, along with their cacophony of exultation and promise of fangs. Iranola smiles over his shoulder.
“You must be so afraid,” he says.
“I am never afraid.”
I glare at him.
“You are crazy then. Those dogs would eat you alive.”
We hurry on a while more. They are gaining on us. We both start to trot. I am just as fast as he.
“Fine,” I mutter between breaths. “I am afraid of the dogs.”
“You shouldn’t be.”
“You just said I should be.”
He laughs like the fool he is and gives me a twisted grin.
“I have fed those dogs for years,” he says. “They will never hurt me. And I won’t let them hurt you.”
“I thought you only fed the pigs.” I am gasping for breath now.
“It doesn’t matter. All the animals talk. They tell each other secrets.” He does not speak for a moment. “I am only afraid of the hunters, but they usually stay far behind, letting the beasts do their dirty work, and now I am no longer afraid of them. Not at all.”
My chest hurts. I have to stop, but before I can, he seizes my hand and we plunge off the road, through parched chaparral, a hundred meters of scrub until ahead of us a wide stream of slow water rolls.
“Kalunga,” he says.
The barking is nearer than ever. A few fat raindrops fall, and then the sky opens like a faucet.
“I can’t swim,” I shout.
“You don’t have to,” he says. “I have built a raft.”
He pulls it from its hiding place. Astonished, I am without words for the first time since I have known him, and I wonder now, if I ever have known him. Questions bombard me, a downpour just like the rain, but I am mute until we are halfway across the river.
“How did you have a raft?” I ask him. “You’ve been able to escape? Why didn’t you go before?”
Instead of answering, he guides us with his oar. We are approaching a shoal around an island. A custard apple tree growing there is loaded with fruit. Its beach is bleeding. Transfixed, I watch a moment, and then the storm is spent. When he answers my question, I have forgotten I asked it.
“Do you know what this is?” he says, pointing at the water.
“You told me it’s Kalunga. It’s just a muddy red river.”
“Ah, like a star is just a star!”
I cannot resist spearing him with my eyes, but they betray me, because I am crying. We catch the current on the far side of the stream, just beyond the island. The river moves faster here.
When I look up again, he is smiling, so content and mockingly wise I could punch him.
“Did you think I had forgotten that night?”
He sets his oar upon the raft and takes my hand.
“This river divides my life, Shola. Back in Africa, they say if you want to go quickly, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. I intend to go very far indeed. Will you come with me, Shola?”
I see his silly face above me and know he will never be strong, tall, or even serious. Nor will he ever lead men or be heroic. I still smell pigs when he is nearby, but I am certain, unlike Akin, Iranola cares about me, so I tell him yes. Yes. YES.
His kiss is slow, tender, and too shy. A year later, when we first make love, he is the same way, respectful and tentative. I want to be crushed. I want to scream, but whenever I do, he stops and asks if he is hurting me.
Seven years later, we own herds of beasts near Rio Preto. The praça is crowded, and I am wearing a fancy dress, as I wait for my mother, brothers, and sisters. We purchased them through a slave trader, the same we used for our own manumissions. Iranola holds our daughter, Ana Carolina. Her real name is Ifelayo—love is peace. She is the best person in the world. My mother cries when he passes her into her arms.
That night I ask my mother about Akin.
“Iya, is he still strong and tall? Is he handsome?”
“Oh, yes,” she tells me. “And well off too, at least for a slave. He betrayed the other field hands. They were hiding machetes, ready to revolt and free us, but Alom told Seu Francisco, so after the hangings, he made him the new overseer of Fazenda Carvalho. You were right about him. He was successful.”
She waits for me to say the same about Iranola, but he does nothing by himself. In Africa, they say, you learn to chop down trees by chopping them down. That is what we do every day. They also say dogs don’t love bones over meat; it’s just that no one gives them meat. I am like those dogs, always hungry, yet ever filled to the brim.
“I am so glad Iranola was lucky enough to find me,” I tell her. “He needed someone to tell him what to do.”
Then I lie back on the tall grass, my mother beside me, and we gaze upon the stars. In a few minutes the moon rises and bathes us in its sweet silver light.