The Community, by Jamiyla Chisholm

Book Cover The-Community-A-Memoir-N.Jamiyla-Chisholm

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.  I think I read that somewhere… and so it is with this book.

In the 1990s I flew home to Putnam County, Georgia as often as I could to visit my mother.  She had fallen severely ill and her inability to move briskly about as I had always known her was a huge challenge to my spirit; I can only imagine how it must have troubled hers.

On one of these visits an older brother informed me that a nation of black folks calling themselves Nuwaubians had settled on land not far from where we were.  Should we visit them?  He knew some of the men in charge.   Once he told me there were actual Egyptian style pyramids rising above the pines, how could I resist?

And so, I found myself all those years ago, at the place in Jamiyla Chisholm’s story about her life growing up in a Muslim cult, where she and her mother come face to face with the terror involved in accepting doctrines imposed by people you don’t know, and whose objectives remain deliberately obscure.

This is a fabulous teaching memoir. The kind of story that would have to be lived to be believed, or believable. It serves an extremely important function: that of showing us, through the eyes often of a two and three year old girl, what Life can look like when one is thrown, dragged along by one’s parents, into a cauldron of tyranny and confusion; where one’s only hope for survival is acceptance of an infrequently glimpsed leader’s version of everything, submitting both one’s will and intelligence to the higher power of his wisdom.

But is this anywhere even in the vicinity of freedom, of happiness?  No.

Trust a three and four year old to tell the truth about what this really is.  And to grow up strong enough, even so, to alert the rest of us. Well done. ~aw