Friday, January 16, 2009

The Origins Of Black American Heroes

As I drop deeper into the world of my new, still untitled, novel, I realize certain themes echo through my work. At present what fascinates me are: Father/daughter relationships, dreams, myths, Africanisms in the United States, the nature of good, evil, love and forgiveness. This has led me to think about the books that inform my writing.

One of my favorite nonfiction books is the The Hero with An African Face by Dr. Clyde W. Ford. I have read my copy down to its gluey spine. Ford's work helped me frame my last novel, Act of Grace, so that my words got to the heart of what I was trying to express.

The Rites of Passage Organization said:

The Hero With An African Face identifies and explores the connection between humanity and divinity found throughout traditional mythologies of Africa. In the book, Ford takes readers on a journey into the mythologies of sub-Saharan Africa, presenting timeless insights into the human spirit that reveal the power and importance of ancient African myth. He places it among the great mythological traditions of ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans. It is also the first book to show the similarity between African spiritual traditions and their counterparts in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Native American spirituality, and other spiritual traditions worldwide.

Mythology was traditionally a means of healing self and society by helping people baring the circumstances of their lives into harmony with larger concerns. As Ford writes, "Myths bring us into accord with the eternal mysteries of being, help us manage the inevitable passages of our lives, and give us templates for our relationship with the societies in which we live." In the book, Ford explores how African myths convey the perennial wisdom of humanity: the creation of the world, the hero's journey, our relationship with nature, death, and resurrection. Ford shows how many myths reveal the intimacy of human and animal spirits, and explores the arhetypal forces of the orishas - the West African deities that were carried to the Americas in the African Diaspora. Ultimately, Ford points out that these myths enable us to see the history of African Americans in a new light - as a hero' journey, a courageous passage to a hard-won victory.

Interview with Dr. Ford done by Fearless Books.

Dr. Ford is also a wonderful novelist, dedicated to bringing back the nautical novel. Check out his new literary work on his web site.


Shauna Roberts said...

I was very interested to learn of this book. I've been thinking of writing some fantasies set in nontraditional locations or based on cultures other than European, so this book sounds as if it would be an ideal place to start.

Carleen Brice said...

This sounds like a must-read! Thanks for letting us know about it. It also makes your novels sound like must-reads too!