This week’s discussion covers Chapters 21-40. I felt a measure of excitement and nervous anticipation about this phase in Kunta’s life and eagerly looked forward to accompanying him during a pivotal part of his adolescence.
“Not a day passed that Kunta and his mates didn’t feel both anxiety and joy at the approach of the next harvest festival, which would end with the taking away of the third kafo—those boys between ten and fifteen rains in age —to a place far away from Juffure, to which they would return, after four moons, as men.”
While Kunta is away at training, he learns lessons in taking orders, unity, survival, hunting. Kunta also muses on how small he is in relation to creation, his country, his Creator, Allah. Kunta also learns how the relationship between young men and their fathers are changing as well. When Kunta and his fellow kafo mates see their fathers for the first time after many moons of manhood training, a shift in this awareness becomes clear to all the young men.
But by the end of this week’s reading–I am having a hard time putting those feelings and emotions in words. So let’s jump into a few points for discussion.
“Only one boy rushed forward, calling out his father’s name, and without a word that father reached for the stick of the nearest kintango’s assistant and beat his son with it, shouting at him harshly for betraying his emotions, for showing that he was still a boy.”
Question: Do you feel this is still an attitude of many men today? Suppressing or controlling emotions viewed as a sign of manhood and maturity. Do you think this might have anything to do with the constant threat of impending danger from the capture by the toubob?
“Kunta’s emotions were in a turmoil; the blows he didn’t mind at all, knowing them to be merely another of the rigors of manhood training, but it pained him not to be able to hug his father or even hear his voice, and it shamed him to know that it wasn’t manly even to wish for such indulgences.”
When Kunta comes home the shift in his relationships with those he loves is very evident. His relationship with his mother, brothers and Nyo Boto are all different now. Kunta even moves into his own private quarters. Even the way he greets his father, in a handshake. The unspoken rules of growing up seem to be universal across the ages and cultures.
“Brimming over with joy and pride, Binta felt no need to speak. Kunta did. He wanted to tell her how much he had missed her and how it gladdened him to be home. But he couldn’t find the words. And he knew it wasn’t the sort of thing a man should say to a woman—even to his mother.”
Question: How does Kunta awareness of the change in his relationships with those he loves affect him? How do these subtle changes affect him? How are we affected when it happens in our own relationships?
The transition of treating a young person differently than a child is hard road to navigate. Making the transition as a young person yes, even still more. As Kunta observes the Council sessions held by the elders to deal with issues and disputes among the people of the village. The hearing dealing with young Jankeh Jallon makes an indelible impression.
Question: How does the treatment of this young woman with her pale, tan baby effect the whole village? Can all rejoice in her escape from the toubob but treat her as a social outcast because of events beyond her control? What should she do? What do you imagine happens to her and her child? And women like her?
“Kunta was still thinking: about the tan baby with the strange hair, about his no doubt even stranger father, and about whether this toubob would have eaten Jankeh Jallon if she had not escaped from him.”
Right before the last 8 chapters of this week’s reading, I had taken on the introspective attidude of Kunta. I lost my vigilance of what I knew was going to happen; the frenzy and unexpected kidnapping and capture of Kunta. It all happened so quickly and at that moment, everything Omoro told Kunta came rushing back to my mind.
“It took longer, however, for him to learn how to remain vigilant through these long nights. When his thoughts began to turn inward, as they always did, he often forgot where he was and what he was supposed to be doing. But finally he learned to keep alert with half of his mind and yet still explore his private thoughts with the other.”
“In a blur, rushing at him, he saw a white face, a club upraised, heard heavy footfalls behind him. Toubob!”
“He was fighting for more than his life now. Omoro! Binta! Lamin! Suwadu! Madi! The toubob’s heavy club crashed against his temple. And all went black.”
There are no words to describe how horrendous and emotional I was while reading these last few chapters this week. As hard as I tried the reality of this happening compounded over and over again by countless numbers of people and families. Forever changed and devastated by such atrocities against a human being.
Question: Discuss your thoughts and feelings about this portion of the book. Such grotesque brutality, violence and dehumanizing treatment. A number of things happen along with a shift in Kunta’s resolve. Let’s pick one or some and discuss.
“The anguished cries, weeping, and prayers continued, subsiding only as one after another exhausted man went limp and lay gasping for breath in the stinking blackness. Kunta knew that he would never see Africa again.”
“Was there any reason to keep hanging onto life here in this stinking darkness?”