African American · afterlife · book review · Historical Fiction

‘Antebellum’ by R. Kayeen Thomas, the spirit of words for change

With so many good things going for this book it is hard to pinpint what exactly made “Antebellum” so good: The writing? The superb storytelling? The overiding theme? Or is it the uniqueness?

Whatever you decide after reading the book and/or review, just know that R. Kayeen Thomas is an author to look out for. And with that being said, let’s explore the story and the many symbols tied into the message of what happens when we forget the stock from which we came from.

SPOLIER ALERT….THE STORY

Moses Jenkins. A.K.A. Da N****(“N” word) has the goal of becoming the most famous, richest rapper out there. He has the life any man would want: The glam, the money and the many, many chics who throw themselves at him and he gives each and every one of them the time they want. Meanwhile, Moses finds himself caught between two decisions: Be what the world wants him to be, or who he is called to be. One choice will lead him down a road of fame and possible brutal death while the other will reform and mold him into the man he was meant to be.

Mr. Rose, a white man and CEO of Cosmo Records brings to Moses’ attention a rival group who put out a dis record about Da N**** and he wants him to make a record to come out just as early dissing the group as well. SaTia, Da N****’s manager and friend since middle school advises that this is ghetto mess and can go bad real fast. Well, long story short Moses lived up to his stage name, put a out a dis record, his best friend got shot and his other best friend got mad that Moses did not want to retaliate and in essence Moses/Da N**** ended up getting shot by his own friend based on betrayal.

Moses finds himself back in slavery in the antebellum south and things get interesting from there, but without giving so much plot instead of commentary, let’s just say Moses went through such a horrific ordeal that I caution readers who easily lose their stomach. At some point he is beaten badly. He is starved then fed the worst slop ever created, and even worse…he is demoted from human to lesser than the family dog in a matter of time. He is now in a place where the “N” word has a very pure meaning and the only people who can help him is a healer named Sarah and Roka.

What happens when a rapper loses his ability to talk? Sarah helps Moses get his health together and spoke some wisdom to him saying: “Kinda world you come from where a man has dat much power in ‘is words, but ‘is spirit ain’t real…”(239). Where is our soul in our music? Are we slaves to what someone wants us to be? Could it be that we think the record won’t sell unless we sell out? Moses figured quickly that the “N” word, whether it ends with “a” or “er” is all wrong.

Moses loses his ability to speak after a while because of the trauma and his vocal chords being very useless, perhaps from the tortuous screams he has made. However, Sarah is determined to shine him up like gold and put his pirpose back in his soul. It ws prophesied he will come and save them and now he can’t speak. Once he find the will, he will speak again and they will be ready…

Fast forwarding again, there is a part in the story where Moses(now living up to his real name), stands up to the slave owner Bradley- who is by far the wickedest man in any story(but c’mon, they were that bad in real life too)- and he recites a rhyme “Ringing dem bells!” The slaves gather behind him, fearless they have “fallen behind my rhyme as if God synchronized us”(285) and the slave owner is so afraid he can’t shoot him. I had goosebumps fill my arms when I read the scene and could see it as if I were watching a HBO special premeiere.

In the end, Moses would not even respond to his nickname, Mo’ or Da Nigga. They both died in the antebellum. You must call him Moses now. He has been broken down, kicked, punched, sliced, and fed slop, worked the fields, and had love taken from him and still he remained standing…

The Symbols, The Allusion in Antebellum

As this is a book presented by Zane for Strebor Books, on first look we think smut fiction and erotica, but you will not find that here. In fact, the sensuality and the nudity and rape scenes in this book push the story where it needs to go and you get the feeling that the idea is about more than fame and sex. In the midst of the people and their actions, I caught several symbols.

For example, Mr. Rose represents modern society. He is white, owns a record company and is comfortable keeping Moses as Da N****. At one point he reminds him that he “owns him and he must do what he says” if people want Da N*****…you give them that.

Bradley and the other slave owner Talbert, represents the Antebellum South. They are no different from Mr. Rose in that they want Moses to remain enslaved.

At one point, Moses had a dream( a wet dream) where three brown skinned girls were nude and wanted to cater to him, but when he saw a white female, he felt she represented innocence. She was simply different. Once she had sex with him, she wanted him to call himself a n*****and to do as she said. Moses had to make a decision…give in to the overwheming passion he felt or stop and regain his own manhood and dignity.

The white girl shouldn’t be viewed as simply a female in this dream. She is a symbol of the illusion that states, “Just do as we say and debase yourself, disrespect yourself and we’ll give you money. She is no different from his ex best friends, Mr. Rose, or Talbert and Bradley. She just looked good.

The story was also an allusion to Moses in the bible. Moses freed the slaves with the power of his words while Moses of the bible freed the slaves in Egypt with the power of God with him.

Moses eventually got so broken down, scared witless and nearly lost his mind that he did lose his mind. His “rabbit mind” as the old folks used to say.

But he got the right one back.

The book ended as if there will be next installment and I am glad to announce that “the Seven Days” will be out in 2013.

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