Rebuilt Identity: In Progress

I’ve been reading this book by Chris Abani. Abani is a Nigerian-American writer. His mother was very English. But His father, Nigerian, so where is the American in him? Well–he lives in the United States. And he has done for years. He is American now.

The book I’m reading is called The Secret History of Las Vegas. It’s brilliantly written, though one of the creepier books I’ve ever picked up. It’s a novel about a man who does studies on psychopathy. A scary topic, to say the least.

Chris Abani has a TED Talk he did some years ago. 2008, actually. It is about humanity. But it’s also about how Africa is constantly in a state of rebuilding itself and it’s identity. in this TED Talk for instance, he explained that, until the genocide in Rwanda, the word for rape and marriage were actually the same. There may have been a difference in the context the word was used that changed it’s meaning, but this reflects a culture that accepted rape on a scale not seen for many hundred years in the western world. However, after the genocide, a word was created for this act in Rwanda. And this thing was rebuilt not as marriage, but as a crime and atrocity, and it was done so by women.

Abani speaks of apartheid a lot. And to think partied only ended in 1991, and even then, all the laws were only abolished in 1994. And it hasn’t been so long. What identity does South Africa have? What must it rebuild for it’s citizens and those who call it home. Apartheid was an era that rivals the monstrosities of the Third Reich, yet most people ignore it, or do not know about it. It feels like ancient history for many.

But in South Africa, in Africa at large, the repercussions of apartheid are still being felt. It is still a dangerous country, a dangerous continent, rife with civil unrest.

Abani brings these issues to his novels. He reminds readers that the struggles of Africa are the same struggles of the western and eastern worlds. They are human rights. They are constantly being rebuilt.

9/14/15 Breeze (Part 4)

They kept showing the crash. Usually the second one. Footage of the first plane hadn’t been available. The second plane hit the second tower again and again and again. Tyler was sick of seeing it. He was sick of his soggy cereal and he was sick of Brent’s constant movement.

Brent would sit down, then stand up, grab a glass of water from the kitchen. Sit again. Stand again, pace back and forth, answer the phone. Talk to someone. Sit down. Stand up. Get another glass of water.

The phone rang again. Brent answered it. He seemed eager to do so.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, she went to work. No. I don’t know. . . yes. He’s here. Here. Tyler it’s Grandma. She wants to talk to you.”

Brent walked the phone over and handed it to Tyler.

“Hello?” he said.

“Hey Tyler, how’s it going?” asked Grandma. Her voice was creaky like wooden floors or the front door of their house.

“It’s okay,” he said.

“Are you scared?” she asked.


“You’re not?”


“That’s good. Is Brent looking after you?”

The doorbell rang. Brent went to get it.

“Yes,” said Tyler.

“Come in, Andy. Thank’s for coming–I—”

Tyler could hear Brent talking. Then his father’s voice. “Thank you for agreeing.”

“You know I love you very much,” creaked Grandma.

“Okay,” said Tyler. “My dad is here.”

“Oh, you’re father is there?”


Brent came back from the front door. Tyler’s dad right behind. He was dressed in a long black coat that almost reached his knees. His hair was short and slick. His smile was wide, but Tyler could tell it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Hey buddy,” he said bending down and opening his arms.

“Dad’s here!” Tyler nearly yelled into the phone, and lept off the couch into his father’s arms.

Without saying goodbye Tyler handed the phone back to Brent, who took it and said something into it, but Tyler didn’t care what it was.

“Good to see you, dude,” said his father. “You keeping Brent company on your day off from school?”

“Yep,” said Tyler, as though he was only there because Brent needed him. Tyler’s dad always made him feel brave and strong and really tough, because Dad was so tough also. He was the toughest person Tyler knew.

“That’s good, tough guy,” said Dad. “Has your mother called yet?” he asked.

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay. Okay.”

For the first time Tyler saw Dad’s smile falter.

“Dad,” said Tyler, “Guess what?”


“Mom is getting married.”

Dad’s renewed smile faltered once again. “–She–She is?”

“Yeah, Brent showed her the ring yesterday.”

Dad paused a moment. His eyes darted past Tyler where Brent was on the phone. “Well,” said Dad. “That’s great. She must be excited.”

Tyler nodded. “Did you see what happened?” he asked.

“The planes?” said Dad.

“Yeah, it was like,” Tyler made a flying sound and his hand turned into an airplane before it crashed into an imaginary building.

“Yes,” said Dad. “I saw the TV.”

6/13/15 Love Is A Deep Root

Love is not an unknown.

It is just buried deep inside.

Love is not mysterious to the heart.

It is mysterious to the mind.

Love, it is true, is a deep root.

It is something we all must dig to find, choose to tug, and pull up from those depths (and many of you will know), this is sometimes a messy task. Not always pretty, but the dirt and mud on our hands, if we pull enough, is more rewarding than any taproot too painful to explore. For when the hands are washed love is clean and true, if only we accept it.

We come here today to celebrate this capacity.

The love for our friends–the love they have for us.

And, most of all, the love they have for each other.