Allah in the Islands
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Dr.Â Brenda Flanagan
By Brian Carter
Brenda Flanagan, Author and Professor of English at Davidson College, is known for her dramatic prose, short stories and Caribbean tales. Born in Trinidad in 1949, she started writing poetry at the age of ten. She later worked as a trainee reporter for The Nation, a newspaper under the then ruling The People’s National Movement. Flanagan later left Trinidad in 1967 for the US. She began undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan. While winning a host of awards and holding the title of U.S. Ambassador to countries such as Kuwait, Libya, and India, she followed up her novel; You alone are dancing with another encapsulating story entitled Allah in the Islands.
Allah in the Islands is a story about a poor community on the fictional island of Santabella in the town of Rosehill. Rosehill is a town struggling to survive against crime and a heartless government. Rosehill soon finds itself becoming charged with a new element: Islam. The people aren’t sure if this means freedom and change or something more ominous for their small community.
The story continues with the life of Beatrice Salandy from Flanagan’s previous novel, You alone are dancing. Beatrice, the heroine of the story has just won her case and upon release from jail, comes upon a changing community. We explore this changing world through the eyes of Beatrice and another character named Abdul. Through Beatrice’s eyes, you’ll meet the charismatic Haji as he sets up a nation of Islam on Santabella. We also see another side of the story through Abdul, a young follower of the Haji. The story also follows a myriad of characters in and around Beatrice’s life and their varying views. Beatrice, an outspoken and strong young woman, tries to navigate her life through pains of the past and an uncertain future. On her journey, she finds herself torn between the mysterious world of Islam and pursuing her own future dreams and goals. Abdul is an eager follower of Haji, who believes that Islam is the answer for Santabella. It’s in the midst of all the social changes, we also find a love triangle forming between Beatrice, the Muslim leader Haji, Haji’s trusted assistant Abdul, and Beatrice’s old friend Sonny. As we follow Beatrice and Abdul’s journey we find some decisions in life aren’t easy and we may have to live with them for the rest of our lives.
Flanagan uses Caribbean dialect and tropical imagery to pull you into Santabella and its rich culture. She makes you feel as if you’re a native Santabellan speaking to you through the characters in their picong voice and everyday norms. You become apart of this community and its people. The human perspectives from all sides are shown through the various characters in Beatrice’s life and within her experiences as well. You find yourself wondering if Islam is the way or if life would be better somewhere else? The characters attach themselves to you…are you Beatrice or Abdul? Do you agree with Haji or Miss Ann? These are some of the questions you find yourself asking as you become more immersed in the story. More than that, Allah in the Islands makes a social comment on the relationship between the poor and the rich. Flanagan uses Santabella and its plagues to illustrate the injustices and prejudices inflicted upon the poor.
Allah in the Islands is more than a social commentary. It’s a story about people and how they affect everything around them with the decisions they make in life. It’s a story that makes you reflect on the roads we choose to take and the ones we pass by.