Friday, January 23, 2009


I am Joseph R. Alila, the author of Sunset on Polygamy (ISBN 1424166845).Sunset on Polygamy is the first of six novels and two collections of poems that I have written. This novel speaks to the sociological, spiritual as well anthropological underpinnings of governance, courtship, marriage, polygamy, remarriage, conflicts, death and disease among the Luo of East Africa. I have also addressed how these aspects of life affect the understanding and management of the New Disease epidemic (read AIDS epidemic) among my people (the Luo).

As a social critic, I believe that my role is to blow the horn, to warn, to praise, to mourn, and to ask questions whenever there is an emergent cultural problem. In this role, I have tried to be an innocent presenter (and sometimes an active presenter) of facts as I see them, and calling human folly what it is.It may come as a surprise to some of my readers that my female heroines (Felicia the Nyadendi, Nyapora, Megan and Gina) tend to influence the destiny of their homes and husbands and a whole people. But this is a natural consequence of the fact that, among the Luo, marriage is a spiritual institution, and the woman is at the center of worship within the home. When polygamy is factored into the marriage equation, marriage becomes one complex religious institution with its own dos and don’ts. Now, when the ethical references and goalposts are frayed and weakened by social decay, marriage in general (and polygamy in particular) becomes a complex deathtrap in the face of emergent disease epidemics such as AIDS. When the symptoms of AIDS are confused for that of chira (deadly curse), the tragedy of our human folly becomes immeasurable.


By Joseph R. Alila

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Listen to our "Ker," (this Luo word has no accurate English translation! so bare with me) Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the man who says that he has been teargassed so many times that he has permanent eye damage. That is part of the tragic price the modern warrior has paid for valor. (It this kind of downpayment for freedom and democracy made in a warrior's blood and health that makes the poet's pen and voice quiver as he implores Rateng' to let the Bride Go in "RATENG' AND BRIDE"). PM Odinga mourns the lives needlessly sacrificed during the struggle to have people's votes and voices respected after the 2007 Kenya Presidential Election. He says that existing relics of a (colonial) civic structure and occupying (PNU) functionaries have frustrated the implementation of agreed points in his coalition government with President Kibaki.

Read the Standard:

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I am Joseph R Alila, author of such novels as SUNSET ON POLYGAMY and THE MILAYI CURSE.
In my newest novel, WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, I have employed a story about the trying times of two widows to lead my readers along an anthropological journey into some cultural aspects of marriage, kinship and inheritance among the Luo of Eastern Africa. WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART is an ansty cry of a strong-willed, unfortunate widow (Apiny) with the "spiritually-untouchable" tag hanging on her neck, who, together with her widowed mother-in-law (Awino) insist that they belong with the clan into which they married, even as their immediate in-laws consider the younger widow to be a living "a curse," who must go. In this choice, the women have taken the higher cultural moral road than their heartless in-laws. Moreover, the women are on the right side of Luo Customary Law, which states that women and their children belong with the clan, and not just the immediate family of their husbands.
In Awino accepting a distant brother-in-law’s hand in marriage so that her burdened daughter-in-law ( Apiny) can find a kitchen in which to sleep as the latter awaits the birth of her next husband, I tell my readers a story about undying faith, courage, patience and humility, on the part of the women, and charity, on the part of the widower (Misuru). That Awino agrees to give her daughter-in-law a tender son to marry is a steep moral hill she, Awino, has to overcome amid daily echoes of laughter and ridicule of both women by their contemporaries.
But my readers should remeber that this is eighteenth-century Luoland, in which due process in matters of birth, marriage, death has to be observed religiously, lest unsettled spirits run amock. Moreover, the Seer says that the future of a whole people is tied to the strength of arms of the yet-to-be-born children and grandchildren of the two widows.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

"OUR LUO SUNRISE IN THE WEST (Old Prophecies and Our Improbable Journey)"

Fans of "SUNSET ON POLYGAMY," I'm digging in to polish my next novel, "OUR LUO SUNRISE IN THE WEST" or some title to that effect. If you wanna scoop me, you ghost writers out there, go right ahead, at the risk of fighting with my ancestors. Anyway, if you are not in the know, the Nilotic Tribe, The LUO, fathered the new man of the world, The Man of the Moment.
It is a tough project. I am grabbing every catchy phrase and idea that visit my dreams. Writing one line is taking me two days, on some cloggy days. You must be wondering why? when the history of the Luo is out there.
This is why: Novelists are not historians; they are not prophets, even as their works may foretell some events , as Novelist JR Alila in the closing chapter in THE WISE ONE OF RAMOGILAND. They are not bound by any truths. They have to try to relive the lives of some of the subjects of their imaginations and creations. Novelists try to dig into the hows and whys, even if these are unusual or untrue. For example, they have to imagine what their subjects could have done if faced with a hyena eating a Buffalo; or when forced to live in a cave of serpents like a Special Forces Soldier; or what a woman, ejected by her in-laws, would have done in the middle of nowhere in a vast wilderness in seventeenth-century Sudan. Novelists embellish their facts because they may have to (for example) describe the musical bowel movements of a glutton in the middle of a scarce meal, even if such the noises were absent! So don't take catchy "commercial" phrases from a scribe like me as sources of wisdom!
Anyway, I'm trying to put this historical event of our times, precipitated by the very grandson of Ramogi the Great, into prophetic and escatological context (you may use your GoogleSearch or Dictionary here), even though I am no prophet.
Don't misunderstand me: novelists purposes are never vain, even as their truths are embellished. The reader walks away with some new knowledge and some truth from amidst some half-truths. The Novelist has some agenda though, even as he may just be some innocent storyteller. You may read a story and come out with a plethora of literary devices used--- virgin metaphors, oxymorons---all products of the language, slang and culture he or she lives. But most novelists don't wake up and say, "I'll use so many metaphors in this action packed, boiler of a paragraph." The novelist, often, is just talking to you, on a street, at a diner, in bed without thinking about the literary classification of his or her work.
But this project is taking me long to complete because the characters such as Ramogi the Great were not mere men; their wives were not ordinary women; their decisions could have impeached a modern President; they walked under a special cloud; they fasted and prayed more often than you and I, because their burdens were weightier and their circumstances more dire than any modern president would ever face, even if these ancestors could have had responsibilities over less than 200 men!
But even if the final novel may end up being a mere product of my imagination, I want my readers to realise that we as MAN have travelled a difficult road, and are here today because of sacrifices made by those before us. Tread the land with reverence; fast and pray more often, think before you burn 50 gallons of gas chasing an illusive girlfriend or boyfriend; eat what you need and not what you want; donate when you can!

Happy New Year
Joseph R Alila

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I am author Joseph R. Alila. In THE MILAYI CURSE, which is my second novel, I bring to my readers and fans a spiritual story of people caught up in a conflict between isles of love within a sea of hate; a conflict between a conservative and prejudicial, old perspective of life against the hope and innocence of youth; a struggle between a new Christian religious perspective and an entrenched traditional, religious order. The battlefield is for the people's souls, with Father James on one side and Mrs. Milayi on the other, and the rest in between. A family divide with a historical origin has survived for centuries, and continues to haunt great-grandchildren of the original principals, two cousins—the Jamokos and the Milayis. The cold war and social schism within the clan is such that neither side could inherit a widow from the opposing side of the clan divide and successfully sire a male child. That the Jamokos are generally rich and the Milayis generally poor, and that this class schism was the result of the original conflict, has not helped the situation. But there are a few Saints on ether side of clan-divide: two boys (and now men) whose fates are tied to academic achievements; a rich Jamoko man who sponsors a Milayi boy’s education—when a Church Mission establishes a school; a Priest, Father James, who ministers to the troubled souls of his polarized congregation, and is the secret conduit of the scholarship from Jamoko to the Milayi boy’s education trust. This battle is being fought the more intensely in the hearts of two women in the lives of two boyhood friends—a friendship that outlives their ages and changes in fortune. Mrs Jamoko (the Mayor's daughter) is not amused that her husband—Councillor Jamoko—is playing 'servant' to a Milayi politician (Charles). An educated Milayi (Charles, an MP) is the new voice of the clan—a role that only Divine Providence could have established. But his mother, Mrs. Consolata Milayi, believes that the Jamokos are out to destroy her son, Charles Milayi. Caught up in the war within the souls, is Father James, the keeper of Confessional Secrets, and a constant listener and counselor to Mrs. Milayi. Father James has to reveal to Mrs. Milayi the little Secret between her son’s success and David Jamoko’s generosity, during what could have been her last rites. She wakes up from her self-inflicted spiritual wounds, and prison of hate against the Jamokos, and becomes a champion of reconciliation within the clan.

The Milayi Curse

By Joseph R. Alila