Justice Must be Served

In the story, Baho! by Roland Rugero, a young man called, Nyamuragi is prosecuted for attempting to rape a young woman. For Nyamuragi is a mute and was only trying to ask for directions. A key question that surfaces throughout the novel – Is justice possible?

“Speech is no longer carved in stone; it has become a simple veneer, readily abused when a little gust of wind comes…” (Rugero 43). The tone of this passage is unsettling. The community of Kanya has a poor justice system. Women are especially vulnerable when the men in this community sees them as sexual objects. It is difficult to know when the truth is being told; truth is taken like a grain of salt due to the selfish and grotesque nature of men in the story.

The men in the novel cannot see how their actions are wrong because it has become such a norm. This causes distrust between the people and their environment. And the one-eyed woman in the story acts like a metaphor of wisdom, in which she has partial sight. Partial sight where the men in the community only see what they want to see. Which means they will ultimately, want to save themselves in the end. Along with the one-eyed woman, Nyamuragi, too,  acts as a metaphor. He represents miscommunication. He was set up to die for the purification of the community. Because he doesn’t die in the end, this shows that the community hasn’t changed.

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It’s a sad truth to know that the men in this society won’t change their ways because they can use Nyamuragi as a scapegoat to save their reputation since he is mute. Jonathan, Nyamuragi’s uncle, manipulated the system to help save his nephew, unfortunately, this did not change the justice system. The lack of trust in the community caused by language barriers makes it so justice cannot be possible. 

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Women are NOT Property

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In the novel, Baho! by Ronald Rugero, a young deaf man is accused of raping a young woman, when in reality he was only trying to get directions.

In today’s society, there have been many sexual assault accusations.  Many of which, if not all, are true. These men apologize for their wrong doing, but only because they were caught. If they were not caught, would they have said sorry? Most likely not. Even with apologies, this does not excuse their actions.

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A main theme in Baho! is gender relations. There is a power struggle occurring in Kanya, a village in Burundi, where women are objectified. The men in court feel as though they must protect their gender and take it upon themselves to find the deaf boy guilty. “Let’s go, men! We must defend ourselves!” (Rugero 26). By saying this, the five judges think they can rid themselves of the sexist and degrading actions they place on the women in the village. Here, proves the sexist system laid in the novel. It’s like our society where sexual assaulters apologize and POOF all is forgiven.

However, this isn’t how it should be. Women are NOT property. Men should not be be able to justify what they’ve done through a forced apology. Or, in means of the story, thinking they are doing the right thing by finding the deaf boy guilty as if it will save the reputation and pride of men. The men in Baho! disregard the victim to save the male species. A noticeable theme seen in today’s society.

Uproar of the Congo

The novel, Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated by Roland Glasser is based around the Congo with beautiful use of imagery of jazz music through language to illustrate the hardships and day-to-day lives of those trying to survive.

Mujila does a brilliant job at creating a story that engages the reader while writing characters that are not ones you would typically root for. His use of run-on sentences support his jazz symbolisms throughout the novel. Language is an important detail while reading his text. For example, Mujila writes, “mournful” eighty times in a row on page 181. In doing so, he pushes the theme of jazz music while using it to symbolize the struggle of the people living in the Congo. For they live their lives in a continuous motion. The repetition on the word can allude to the tiring work the people go through, daily. Like jazz, their lives are a continuous cycle of rhythm.

Not only does Mujila repeat a single word, but he also repeats the phrase, “Do you have the time” throughout the entire novel. We see this multiple times, and it is implying sex. The purpose of this phrase is another key use of language detail by Mujila. He repeats it to create a sense of reoccurrence and point out the bleakness and forwardness of the people. They are trying to make something out of themselves — like Lucien who wants to write a story — while also trying to survive in the City-State, which is unsafe and not well-maintained by the government.

While reading the novel aloud, you notice that you have to catch your breath many times due to run-on sentences. In doing this, Mujila sneakily references to the endeavors of those in the Congo. You can almost feel their battle for survival. It’s like they’re trying to pause and catch their breath, but they can’t because they have to move alongside this chaotic society.

Makina: The Female Character We’ve Been Waiting For

When all seems divided, Makina shows off her strength and bravery as a young woman as she tries to save her brother across the border. In the novel, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, Makina, the main character, has to save her brother who is on the other side of the border. Throughout the story we see how independent Makina presents herself.

It’s nice to see female characters like Makina in novels because it shows that women can be headstrong. In the story, Makina is described as being very sexual. In describing the lead, female character in this way, the reader can see that women do not need a man to protect them. Especially, Makina. There is a scene in the novel which says, “every weekend they’d shuck” (Herrera 28) describing Makina’s relationship with a guy.

The main character doesn’t follow the typical standards women are stereotyped as, which makes Makina the female role we’ve been waiting for. She challenges gender roles and the traditional view of Hispanic women. Her forceful character goes after what she wants to help save her family.

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Predator vs. Prey

The novel, Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, translated by Chip Rossetti, is a science fiction story set in Egypt in 2023. It tells the story of two characters who live in the same world (The Others), but have different mindsets.

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Alaa, the “Predator”, is the stereotypical “Other”, in which he doesn’t think he is going to die and acts demeaning towards women. He has sex out of sheer boredom and he religiously consumes drugs and alcohol. The Others are quite violent with each other. Alaa describes other characters with negative connotation, such as, “vulgar” and “stupid laugh”.  He’s part of a rape culture who disregards intimacy with another person.

Then, we have Gaber, or the “Prey”, who is much more compassionate as compared to Alaa. He is empathetic, especially towards his sister, when he says, “I wouldn’t die and let her live without a life.” This shows just how much he thinks about others over himself along with the fact that he feels like he can die.  You can tell he is different from Alaa straight off the bat when he says, “My beloved cornea — and a dream beyond sex… Alas!” Gaber possesses a separate mentality, in which he does not care to have sex all the time with different women as if they are animals. He’s a romantic.

However, Towfik blends the two characters. For example, both Alaa and Gaber enjoy reading as an escape from their cruel reality of The Others where they are surrounded by hardships and pain, unlike their counterparts in Utopia. Also, Gaber, like Alaa, still feels anger towards Utopians however, he is able to control his anger. Because Towfik compares the two, he shows that people who live in the same society can have different morals, but they also share similarities which bring them together. There are parallels between the two characters which make me infer that there will be an uprising in the novel.