Literary Zone

Book Review: Harvest of Hate

27 May 2006 at 03:02 | 892 views


Growing up in war-torn West Africa, he believes he’s seen the darkest part of the human heart.

Still, Roland Marke believes a few rays of truth can illuminate and begin to change even the coldest heart.

That’s what Marke, an East Arlington resident, is hoping to do with his about-to-be-published book, Harvest of Hate.

It’s a collection of stories and essays delivering a bare-knuckled look at greed, conflicts, the child soldiers of Africa, girl victims of an enduring slave trade, the global effects of terrorism on humanity and even the cultural ugliness exposed by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

"I wanted this book to be fuel for the soul," said Marke, who grew up in Sierra Leone. "If you tell a story someone can relate to, you give them a chance to develop some empathy. And it’s a powerful thing when you can see what someone sees or feel what someone feels."

Christopher Nnuduechi, an author and professor who grew up in Nigeria, said he admires Marke’s gift for looking unflinchingly at war and greed, yet somehow leaving the reader with a sense of hope.

"I’m not naive enough to think literature and art are gong to provide a complete solution, but art has quite a strong role to play in helping us see each other as connected," Nnuduechi said. "As a writer myself, I believe in the power of the word to sooth and heal."

He says he believes Marke uses those literary tools effectively.

Marke grew up speaking Krio, a sort of African creole passed down through the generations. He says he listened to the BBC every day to learn "proper" English.

"I still listen to the BBC every day," he said.

Marke is the author of two collections of poetry: Teardrops Keep Falling, published in 2003 by Minuteman Press, and Silver Rain and Blizzard, published this year by Publish America.

Marke, who was a schoolteacher for 10 years in Africa, has also published numerous articles and stories nationally and internationally over the past two decades.

"Whatever I write about war, prose or poetry, I make sure I’m taking a humanitarian point of view," he said. "I certainly don’t want to glorify any conflict. There’s enough of that going on already."

Marke, 51, who came to the United States in 1996 with $20 in his pocket, says much of his writing is "therapy" to help soothe his own soul, scarred by growing up on a continent of perpetually warring nations.

He said some of the stories in Harvest of Hate are written from the perspective of a young African woman captured and forced to fight and live as a rebel in the bush for more than a year.

"I wanted to use her voice to convey the emotion of war and not just the facts," he said. "People often just hear the names of cities, and numbers of those fighting. But what’s really going on is this horrendous emotional upheaval."

Woven into the tales of war are explorations of a few other themes in his Harvest of Hate, which he describes as "fiction based closely on my experiences." For example, in one story, called "Love Chain Harmony," Marke said he came up with a tale to explore the culture clash between industrial nations and the Third World.

"One device I use in the story is to compare how pets are treated in the United States with the way people are treated in many African countries," he said. "You know, how a dog in America may get medical treatment all the time, eat like a king, even have insurance. People where I’m from find that shocking."

Credit: Florida Times-Union.

Photo: Roland Marke, right, and Nnodueche.