Okay, maybe I’m overselling it a little here. The book does have a couple flaws, such as a frustratingly stubborn and emotionally awkward protagonist, as well as a patchwork of style choices that swing from academically heightened language to spiritually sensitive metaphorical imagery. However, this rich and vibrant bildungsroman (a super awkward word for a coming of age story—you’re welcome) satisfies a broad palette with its mystical, astronomical, religious, academic, racial, cultural, and historical themes. Think he can’t pack all that in? Just watch!
At the most basic level, Makeda is the story of Gray March, a young black man growing up just as the civil rights movement was breaking into American culture. While Gray has a difficult relationship with his family, he can always count on his grandmother, Makeda, to understand him. Though born blind, Makeda has vivid dreams of distant times, places, and people who sometimes feel more like real life than her time awake when she cannot see the people and places around her. She shares her dreams only with Gray and makes him vow to keep her dream life private. It seems Gray is not the only one who fears being misunderstood. As Gray grows up and goes to college, he maintains close contact with his grandmother, and their relationship continues to sustain both of them, while her dreams continue to fuel Gray’s curiosity.
The plot point that carries the most momentum for the novel emerges as Makeda relates a dream in which she was a young girl in 12th century Mali, living as a member of the Dogon people. From this dream, she is able to remember the Dogon’s astrological knowledge of various stars that had yet to be discovered by western scientists. Gray soon finds that his grandmother’s knowledge about the Dogon people and the star: Po Tolo (that’s Sirius B to us westerners) was not only accurate but impossible to explain. This blind, uneducated washer woman was somehow privy to information that scientists and historians were just beginning to uncover. The only explanation, the explanation Makeda had understood all along, was that she was not just dreaming—she was remembering past lives.
At school, Gray is a successful academic, and he keeps a tight grip on his image. The pressure to appear the ever-serious and rational student, along with Gray’s promise to his grandmother, causes him to remain secretive about his incredible discoveries. However, the love of a beautiful Haitian and the pull of his cultural roots soon tug at the bindings in which he has long been constrained. He cannot fight the journey of self-discovery for which he is destined, and what he finds will change everything.
If you are interested in African history, astronomy, past lives, dream visions, familial relationships, self-discovery, the gaps left by an education that largely ignores non-western cultures, or just plain ol’ good story-telling, then I highly recommend this book. If you are interested in the unexplained or alien theories, then I highly recommend doing more research on the Dogon people, and by research I mean watching Ancient Aliens and surfing the internet for other totally legitimate sources of infotainment.
WRITTEN BY DOT LESABRE WHO LOOKS VERY FLATTERING IN SMARTY PANTS