“Kuimba” by Priscilla B Shuler has the following accolade: BREW Readers’ Choice Award for November 2021 and African-American Historical Fiction of 2021/2022.
Can a single child change the life of an entire community? Ever since Kuimba was born, he was different. With black skin but blue eyes, and singing instead of crying, he was met both with admiration and distrust. The child, who did not speak, had special powers. But in a society still heavily rife with racial disparity, Kuimba finds his worst enemy in R.Ed Barnard, the son of his father’s overlord who, corrupted by envy, will not stop at anything to get rid of the “Jesus Boy.” “Kuimba” by Priscilla B. Shuler follows the life of a small community in South Carolina as they see their lives transformed by this unique boy.
What stands out in “Kuimba” is the many layers such a brief story contains. There is a heavy religious element, but also a strong reflection about racial inequality, about redemption, and even a romance subplot. While many books focus on the abolition of slavery, and this is important, few explain the social climate that was left afterward. “Kuimba” focuses on the aftermath, 50 years after the abolition of slavery in the US. Was slavery truly abolished when black people still lived in an almost feudal system, completely subjugated to white people? I enjoyed how the social atmosphere was perfectly portrayed, even in the little details. I also applaud that the author didn’t make all the white people be the villains, but made a point of demonstrating that it is our actions, and nothing else, which determine the kind of person we will be. We see this, for example, in the character of Dr. Benjamin Hatfield who, as a man of science, approached Kuimba with heavy skepticism, but whose evolution was fascinating. The dialogues that reflect accurately the vernacular speech of the different subgroups in the story bring much color to the narrative. However, some readers, especially non-native English speakers, might have a hard time getting used to the different manners of speech.
The only flaw in an original and enlightening story is the many unnecessary parentheses. For some reason, the author included parts of the narrative that were not especially brief or expendable in parentheses. Other than that, the book appears to be professionally edited, with few mistakes, mainly comprising missing or misplaced quotation marks.
Readers of historical fiction and anyone interested in learning history will enjoy this novel immensely. So will readers who enjoy magical realism and stories with elements of mysticism. There is a strong religious element in the book, namely Christianity. I would not recommend this book to staunch atheists or anyone who feels bothered by the constant mention of faith and Christian dogma.
Because of the original premise, perfectly executed dialogues, well-developed characters, and meaningful message, I rate “Kuimba” by Priscilla B. Shuler 5 out of 5 stars.
“Kuimba” should teach us not to fear differences, but to embrace personal evolution. “Kuimba” gave me hope that one day we can finally leave behind absurd disparities, respect the earth that nourishes us, and forgive not only others but ourselves. I hope it does the same for all of its readers.
AF, 1 December 2021
- Title: Kuimba
- Author: Priscilla B Shuler
- Genre: Black & African American Literary Fiction
- Publication Date: 12 January 2017
- ISBN or ASIN: B01N224LG4
Themes (Note: 0=none, 1=a few, 2=considerable, 3=pronounced, 4=excessive)
- Sexual: TBDL
- Religious: TBDL
- Violence, self-harm, etc.: TBDL
- Crude language, expletives, swearing, etc.: TBDL
- Other adult tones: TBDL
- Content: 5 stars
- Writing Style: 5 stars
- Appeal to Target Audience: 5 stars
- Uniqueness: 5 stars
- Editing: 4 stars
- Other factors: 5 stars
- Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
Note: The views expressed in book reviews are the review authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the entire site’s.
Know more about Priscilla B Shuler via https://thechrysalisbrewproject.com/2021/11/16/meet-our-author-priscilla-b-shuler/.
View “Kuimba” on Amazon.com.
View “Kuimba” on Amazon.com.au.
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2 thoughts on “A Book Review by Fermosalua: “Kuimba” by Priscilla B Shuler”
Wonderful review! Deeply honored by the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of this critique.
On the contrary, it was an honor for me to review such an original and inspiring piece of fiction. And I learned a lot! I’m not from the US, so I was not aware that the abolition of slavery did not really mean the ending of the grim condition that people of color suffered. It was a very enlightening read.
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