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Jamai Dlamini has lived a life of isolation in her own community. She has a gift she doesn’t understand and can’t control. Other forces with sinister intentions have set their sights on her, including a disembodied spirit from another dimension who understands her situation all too well.
As events in her life spin out of control, even her best friend Youssou is drawn into the net tightening around her. Along the way she will find that she has unexpected allies among the living…and the dead.
Butterfly and Serpent is about isolation, the isolation others impose on us and that we impose on ourselves. Whenever we feel worthless, often wrongly, we sometimes have an overwhelming feeling that we’re alone. We’ve always been alone and maybe it’s something we deserve. But that’s not really true. We’re not alone; we don’t have to be alone.
The author worked on developing this character by unlearning everything he thought he knew about Africa. He never wanted Jamai to be a bitch-in-britches like Tasha Yar, or the space marines in the Alien movies. He wanted her to be a strong capable person; He wanted readers to see their own possibilities. This novel is the first step in her journey, which begins like this:
[Excerpt: Womb ]
My first memories were of water, all warm and clingy, and a steady thrum-thrum as of a drum. I also remember a song whispered by an angel. What the words were I couldn’t recall, other than one which was repeated over and over: e-ay-as. No, that wasn’t exactly what it was. Time blurs all things.
I was torn from this snuggly cocoon into a world of insects and light, screeching birds and shrieking winds. But again that angel trilled a song for my ears alone, and the word would come: e-ay-as, e-ay-as.
Mama died shortly after my delivery. I’d never seen her face. In my infant memory it’s fuzzy and shadowed, but the song she whispered in the womb and at my birth remains in my mind. On those nights when I lie in Nyoka’s embrace I call her voice to mind, and I can pretend it is Mama keeping me safe.
As for that word, I could never find what it meant, not from my father Baba (who vehemently denied all knowledge of it) nor from the East African Community’s database, surely the greatest accumulation of facts in all the world. I only discovered the truth about this and many other things on that day when the spirits led me to the temple.
Michael Robbins is a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest and a diabetic, both likely to be permanent conditions. He continues to write novels and short stories with work that originates in his heart, and he draws extensively from history, mythology, and a very fertile imagination. His work has appeared in four fiction collections by Muddy Puddle Press. Butterfly & Serpent is the first novel in a trilogy.
I spent years desperately trying to make this character work. I’ve had to take these stories back to scratch and un-learn everything I thought we knew about Africa. Which speaks to the second point, that is to take this opportunity to mock &/or explode all the stupid myths ingrained in us about Africa.
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