About this writer
There are some stories that touch you and some that change you. This is what Kwame Zumbi discovers after a visit with his blind mother. Initially turned off by her physical condition and what Kwame sees as a sinful lifestyle (she refuses to call him by his Christian name and she doesn’t attend a Christian church), he eventually learns of a past that he has long forgotten and indeed that he had chosen to forget. Ama has a story to tell, one that “lies within me, kicking like a child in the womb” and she summons her son, Kwame, to write it down as she dictates to him. Kwame is impatient with Ama and finds her “old and blind…unwell and…ugly,” but as her story unfolds, he realizes just how amazing her journey has been. From Ama’s comfortable beginnings in her hometown to her relationship with a Dutch governor that brought her across foreign waters to the hardships she faced while on the English slave ship, The Love of Liberty, Kwame learns not only about his earlier life, but ultimately just how powerful and influential his mother’s story can be.
Award-winning author, Manu Herbstein, blends fact with fiction to create a rich story that not only tells a heart-wrenching and powerful tale of friendship, love, and loss, but also chronicles the history of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the scars that it has left behind.
The topics found in Brave Music of a Distant Drum can be hard to read about (rape, cruel and unusual punishment, religious persecution), but Herbstein uses the calm and steady voice of Ama to serve as a means of “introduc[ing] a new generation of readers to this history and encourage them to broaden their knowledge of it.” In this way, readers learn about a different, often forgotten, aspect of slavery’s history.
Eventually, the reader realizes that Kwame has been the “blind” one and only when Ama comes to the end of her story does he realize the true strength of family. Herbstein doesn’t give the story a tidy ending, but instead, he ends on a realistic note. In this way, he is encouraging the reader to continue the conversation on a “taboo” subject by asking questions or doing their own research.
Brave Music of a Distant Drum is an amazing story that gives a deep, and sometimes difficult, account of the slave trade. It’s not an understatement to say that Herbstein’s tale is a vital part of history and a key to understanding cross-cultural relations today.
Brave Music of a Distant Drum is sequel to Ama, A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade