The African Piper of Harlem

by Zeena Nackerdien

Neither fish nor fowl, every immigrant threads the needle between being one of “us” versus one of “them.” The plot is both a fantasy and an exercise in exploring ways in which recent African immigrants and African-Americans recognize and embrace each other’s cultural differences.
In Harlem, the mecca of black America, immigrants of every complexion live side by side with the descendants of slaves. The story begins with a description of how bullies belittle the twins, Bilal and Nawaal, who are of Nigerian descent. Grandpa Abram and their mother, Ola, do not know how to help the children. Out of nowhere, a mysterious figure, Abekepi appears, and this fantastic piper offers to rid the neighborhood of bullies for a crazy reward. What follows is an intriguing, and sometimes unsettling, weaving of social themes, in which a supernatural being intervenes to turn the struggles of a single mother and her twins into triumph.

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