Murran: Frank Fiore

Trey Davis learns the meaning of survival, trust, friendship, loyalty and deceit in a powerful novel by author Frank Fiore, Murran. Take a trip back in time to the 1980’s and meet Trey Davis a young boy whose life drastically changes as his mother has chosen a road that would lead to her own destruction and hoped that her son would not follow in her footsteps. Forced to move from his comfortable home, live with his grandmother and follow her rigid rules, Trey worked hard to break the bonds that would tied him, protect his younger sister and find a place where he would feel respected, needed and wanted. All too often young teens and young adults follow a path that leads them to the streets, gangs and the life of many young African American teens trying to take on the law, fend off rival crews, deal in drugs, alcohol and anything that will render them money in order to find their way to the top of a gang and get what they feel is their rite of passage.

Meeting Trey and his sister Nichelle, as they walk the streets in Harlem we find them vulnerable and a target of a gang run by a young boy named Darrell. Rival crews fight, others warned against invading their turf, bodies fall, weapons come out and the danger of just being outside is real. As Nichelle is about to be brutally attacked and possibly raped by another crew, Darrell comes to her rescue thereby endearing him not only to her but to Trey as well. Friendships ensue, initiations happen and Trey finds himself fighting for acceptance and wins. The language and dialogue is quite authentic, the teachings of the educators required that the author research Black Americans like Dr. King and Malcolm X and explaining their ideals, their teachings and what they hoped to convey.

Trey falls prey to the gang’s wishes, finds himself on the wrong side of the law more than once and learns important lessons that he can either take with him and savor or wind up in jail. As he becomes more embroiled in the gang’s work and their dealings with the Crips, Trey finds that in order to help his mother who has returned and wound up in the hospital with Aids, he needs to find a way to get the money for her medicine in order to safe her life. But, Trey’s efforts fail and his grades plummet forcing his grandmother to take action. Arranging with Mr. Jackson, his English teacher to tutor him two afternoons a week did not make Trey happy but would change his life forever as he gets to know more about him, his heritage and the fact that he is a Maasai Warrior. Equating the word warrior with that of his position in the gang the Warrior would set him apart from what the teacher was trying to tell him. But, his interest peaks as he learns more about life in Kenya, that the tribe is warriors but do not follow gang mentality and intimate their members. Maintaining African Survival-American Survival Achievement and Integrity: Maasai. The author brings to light a real organization called Family Maasai derived from the Maasai tribe of East Africa “ who are the keepers of the cattle and lovers of children.” Their goal is to stabilize and strengthen the lives of young African-Americans and help these young people move through the stages of adulthood and become responsible members of the African-American Community. This made a great impression on Trey but not in the way they hoped. What did impress him was his teacher’s African name and the fact that he killed a lion. But, there was more to Mr. Jackson’s story, his reason for being in America and why if and when he returned to Kenya his family might not welcome him.

Trey wanted more than what Mr. Jackson could offer and Ms. Cummings too as he leaves the center and finds himself once again with his crew. Darrel and Porter were his mentors you might say and he found them more of a true warrior than Mr. Jackson. Money was what he wanted and how he got it did not matter to Trey. Traitors were dealt with, rival gangs were taking over the streets and even the police detective, Greco could not stop what would be a turning point in Trey’s life and force him to have to make a decision that would change things for him and his family forever. When the police arrive at his grandmother’s apartment and his sister says they want to arrest him for murder, what he decides to do would allow readers to learn just what it takes to survive, hide from the law in plain sight and hopefully teach a young teen some lessons in life that he will never forget.

With his protector, Mr. Jackson, he sets off for Africa and what he experiences most teens might not survive as Trey will now learn and understand the true meaning of the word Warrior, respect, ritual and responsibility which are the 3’rs of the Maasai.

Arriving in Kenya would require that he and Mr. Jackson travel by foot many miles. The terrain would be rough and upon meeting his family the welcome was not what you would expect. His decision to go with him was based on the fact that the police wanted him for murder and he was not going to find out what that meant at this time. Throughout the novel the author flashes ahead to the present where Trey has been caught and he is relating the events to his sister before his final fate is determined.

The Masai are fierce warriors. Becoming a warrior and the preparation called Warriorhood will aid in teaching young males Character traits that mark these people are bravery and courage. Each Masai warrior carries a sharply honed spear which is part of their general attire. As Mr. Jackson/Matumbo learns about what his tribe has been doing since he left, Trey learns the meaning of the word stranger. Not taking his malaria pills a big mistake and hearing the Doc speak of the Maasai quite enlightening. Hearing Matumbo speak about the Maasai and the farmers allows readers to understand why they have the custom of cattle raids and their refusal to “work and take jobs or to sell their land and cattle as an impediment to Kenyan development.” Selling to these people is a disease. Protecting their homestead, maintaining water sources for the community and making sure that their livestock is safe from wild animals and theft is how they protect their homestead.

Many other customs are discussed throughout the novel as we learn more about the circumcision ritual for both men and young women, as well as the fact that they can have more than one wife or partner. Jealousy does not exist and they keep zebu as their primary cattle. But, Trey’s mind is not on all of this he wants to become a warrior and circumstances arise that forces him to kill a lion even though he is not a member of the Maasai or initiated. The ritual is one that is painful, no painkillers and requires that he withstand whatever is involved. But, when the Basara raid and someone close to him is hurt, what Trey does just might prove his loyalty to these people and much more.

When someone goes after the people of Matumbo’s tribe, lives are in danger and decisions made Trey just might learn some life lessons that he can take with him if he returns home. Listening to the words of the laibon the religious and political leader of the tribe, learning the many traditions, becoming initiated hopefully with strengthen his character.

The size of a man’s herd and the number of children the man has sired determines his status and importance. As Trey becomes part of this tribe he finds himself drawn to Matumbo’s sister. Will she respond to him and what will happen when they learn the truth about why he fled to Kenya? What happens when the truth comes out? Going from a proper home to one filled with drugs and crime, living in fear for his life and sister’s and joining a gang thinking they were family and would protect him, Trey Davis learns the true meaning of family, understanding, loyalty and values when he crosses over to the other side of the world, enters the Valley of Kenya and hopefully will survive.
Murran: Warrior: Will Trey ever become one? Will he be prosecuted for a murder he did not commit? What happens will surprise readers as the author flashes to the present and Trey must decide whether to handle his deeds and fate head on. Characters that are true to life and dialogue that reflects gang mentality and quite vividly depicted. Murran: A definite must read for teens, young adults, parents, guidance counselors, history teachers and anyone that wants to teach young adults the true meaning of becoming an adult and family. Author F. F. Fiore has once again penned a five star novel.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Burnt Edges: My review

Burnt Edges: Dana Leipold

Laurel Page lived in a world that she created within her own mind. At times she totally disconnected from the realities that she endured in order to deal with the torture, abuse and hate that others inflicted upon her. Pain is one way that Laurel dealt with worry. Pinching the inside of her upper arm helped her to become ready for what her mother or father did to her or would do to her. Bruises on her arms, physical, sexual and verbal abuses her constant companions, Laurel needed to develop her own defense system in order to survive.

Laurel feared her father more than anyone else in her life. Like a tsunami ready to devastate an entire population or a 10.0 earthquake, her father’s behavior was so volatile you never knew when he’d explode. But, physical force was not the worse of it. Her father was never really in a good mood and when he was she never knew when the tide or the direction of the wind would change. Rusty her brother could never win any favor with him. Greg was the youngest and seemed the one that could almost say anything to his father and even help when work hammering and sawing had to be done. Rusty received his ridicule and innuendos were made about his birthright making him an outcast in his own home. Laurel had to do chores but she never received an allowance or any praise for helping around the house or doing the chores that her mother demanded of her. Never a thank you. Never a kind word and rarely a hug or a smile. But, her father often had other plans for her and when drunk and wanting more from Laurel, he would take advantage of her when no one was around. Not having anywhere to turn and no one to confide in, Laurel lived in fear of her father’s nightly visits. No young child should ever withstand the sexual abuse that this father inflicted upon her. The anger welled up inside of her but there was nowhere to release it. So, she harbored her anger within her, prayed he would leave her alone and tried to disengage herself from the incident by putting her mind somewhere else.

Living with her grandparents in the same home brought her some relieve as her grandfather would tell stories to her and her brothers but caused Laurel to lose her privacy and her own room. But, her grandmother was forgetful and the end result was the death of her dog Red. But, just when she thought he could rest her father paid her a visit and the nightmare continued, the fear in her eyes when he touched her and the pain she willed away. But, when she tells her mother about what her father has done her reaction will shock readers, alienate Laurel even more and then cast her aside like yesterday’s trash.

Scholl was part of her save haven as she and her friend Joan would talk about life, moving in to together when they both graduated High School. But, at ten years old her mother and grandmother packed all of her dresses and decided she needed clothes that were more grown up. Then something changed and her mother started treating her like an outcast and President Kennedy was shot and killed. Life was hard for Laurel and her parents were never really there for her or to help her understand the many changes she encountered. But, girls are wicked and one in particular had it in for Laurel and when she decided to defend herself why didn’t her mother realize that she needed her support? Every situation was about the mother, her need to feel above everyone else, not wanting to admit her own shortcomings and instead inflicting pain on Laurel.

Her family’s dynamics would change as her brother Rusty was drafted and sent to serve in Vietnam. Not wanting to go to the army his father insisted he serve his country and the end result would drastically change him and not for the good.

Laurel lived each day within her own shadow never really finding peace anywhere or even her own identity. But, when she and Joan finally moved into their own apartment and she began a new chapter in her life things changed. Getting a job in the mailroom in a big office in Los Angeles. Meeting new people and feeling her own self-worth should have changed her. But, in some respects Laurel remained afraid and unsure of herself. Leaving her wide open for another fall. Living with Joan was great and meeting her new boyfriend Dave would lead her to Larry. Larry and Dave were friends and Dave hoped they would hit it off. But, as you get to know Larry and hear the way he spoke to Laurel you will soon realize that he was not much different than her father or mother trying to control her every move, what she wore and even what she ate. At times you would think she would stand up for herself but Laurel remained silent of too complacent which allows readers to understand that even though she was on her own things did not really change. Being accepted for who she was never really happens at this point but Laurel just wants to feel loved. Larry remains steadfast and wants to marry her because he is about to go into the service. But, weddings are not planned in a day and things often change without any warning and Larry left hoping to return to Laurel while his mother and hers planned a wedding that her mother was unsure of. Face value and how things look to the public has been one of the things that Laurel’s mother needed. Never wanting to feel embarrassed and never sticking up for Laurel, she was not particularly happy with the fact she moved out and even less happy about the wedding. But, things would not pan out the way anyone expected as another young man comes into the picture and Laurel finds herself in a difficult situation that she does nothing to get out of. Loyalties change, faithfulness is discounted and Laurel and Paul who works in another part of her company seem to bond.

Relationships change, feelings are not as strong and temptation wins out as Laurel realizes that things are about to change. With a wedding not too far away a hidden surprise will change it all. What will happen when she reveals her relationship with Paul? What will her mother say? What happens when her father becomes ill and he has one last message for her? Will she forgive him or is it too late? What about her mother? What does she say to Laurel that might finally wake her up to who and what her mother really is and why some things remain the same?

Strong words are spoken and a truth comes out but someone cannot face it. A mother and daughter that will never repair the damage and a family that will never be one. What is Laurel’s final fate? What happens when Larry learns the truth about her relationship with Paul? How does her mother react to the fact that the big wedding is not going to happen? One young girl that grew up too fast. One mother that would not see the truth and unveil a deception that was right in front of her. Laurel and Paul or Laurel and Larry: Which one will keep her heart? What will happen if and when it is her turn to become a mother? Will history repeat itself? Will she be the same way to her child as her mother was to her? As her grandfather said” But God doesn’t give us more than we can handle He’ll put us through the fire a few times, so we get a little burnt around the edges, but all in all, we come out fine.

When Laurel realizes the truth and the final conflict comes about just that will have the Burnt Edges? A story told as if it were ripped out of the pages of a magazine or newspaper headline, Burnt Edges brings to light what happens when a father feels justified abusing his daughter and his sons and a mother turns a blind eye to it all. Heartfelt, conflicts that are real and true to life and characters that will remind you of how much schools, parents, teachers and guidance counselors need to be more aware of what abuse of any kind does to a young girl or any child, Burnt Edges is just the beginning of Laurel’s story. I can’t wait to find out what happens next when author Dana Leipold pens the next chapter in her life. Strength, Courage, Persistent and Hopeful: Laurel: What’s next?

Fran Lewis: Reviewer