Prayers from the Far Quarter: a novel (2020)
Prayers from the Far Quarter is Roger DeBlanck’s most memorable and essential novel to date. Its historical breadth and sweep traverse three continents to chronicle the extraordinary life of Isa Muhammad Rahman, an African Muslim.
Isa’s unforgettable voice and distinct prose style narrate his journey that begins in 1850 from the Bornu kingdom of sub-Saharan Africa. From his capture in his homeland, to his sojourn in Victorian England, to his enslavement on a cotton plantation in the antebellum South, to his work with the American Anti-Slavery Society in the North, and finally through his sacrifices as a Union soldier, Isa relies on the guidance of Islam to strengthen his humanity as he struggles for survival and freedom.
During his efforts to gain inclusion for himself and his family as American citizens, Isa’s journey affords him remarkable opportunities to share Islam’s message of accepting people of all races and faiths. His quest for equality and a just society leads his life on a path where he meets and works alongside figures as majestic and revered as Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman.
In its totality Prayers from the Far Quarter honors the sacrifices and contributions of Muslims throughout American history, and through the voice of Isa Muhammad Rahman the novel resonates with the great peace and compassion at the heart of Islam.
The Destruction of Silence: a novel (2016)
Abuse and addiction have ruined Thomas Newsome’s youth, but he refuses to follow the wasted path of his father, Gilbert. After Thomas narrowly avoids tragedy, he vows to get clean and stay that way. Before he can bury his past and move on, he wants answers from his father for why he never changed. But then Gilbert falls ill and takes off on a personal journey.
With only a handful of clues from his Apache past, Thomas sets out on a quest to track down his father. Along the way, he meets an elderly Native American sage by the name of Sons-in-jah. While traveling with the old man deep into the heart of Apache country through Arizona, New Mexico, and across the border, Thomas’s search for his father becomes an odyssey of self-discovery and an excavation into the roots of his Mescalero ancestors and the truth of his family history. The native individuals he encounters and the enchanting places he visits will forever alter his perspective on life.
The Destruction of Silence is a heartfelt novel of remarkable beauty and compassion. It will sweep you up, carry you along, and leave you both bereft and ultimately uplifted.
The Sky Buries All Sorrow: a novel (2013)
In the spring of 1941, nineteen-year-old John Cooper asks sixteen-year-old Nora Warden to marry him. After she instructs him to “grow up first,” he joins the Army Air Corps. Stationed at Hickam Field, the air base adjacent to Pearl Harbor, John survives the devastation of December 7. The aftermath of the attack only begins his odyssey through the South Pacific, four years that burden him with guilt and shame.
Returning home as a wearied man, John seeks to start a family with Nora, but the young couple confronts hardships intensified by the harrowing memories both carry from their pasts. Amid the unrest of the Cold War and John’s worries about the arms race, he and Nora find solace in raising their daughter, Cassie. But it is not until the impact of September 11 leaves John’s grandson, Johnny DeRosa, overrun with anguish and despair that John fully comprehends how the sacrifices of his generation will have a profound influence on the decisions his grandson makes.
The Sky Buries All Sorrow is a riveting, momentous novel that bridges Pearl Harbor with 9/11 and examines how those two tragic events changed the world and shaped the lives of one family over three generations. From the pivotal battles in the Pacific to the homesteads outside of Pittsburgh, and from the beaches of Southern California to the desert terrain of the Nevada Test Site, it is an unforgettable family saga and an intimate story of personal struggle and the challenges of enduring love.
In the same vivid fashion as his first novel, The Ramos Brothers Trust Castro and Kennedy, Roger DeBlanck’s second novel explores the lives of an array of fascinating characters. The narrative also brings back Juan and Alberto Ramos, as the brothers and their father, Florencio, make appearances in The Sky Buries All Sorrow.
The Ramos Brothers Trust Castro and Kennedy: a novel (2011)
Born in Havana in the 1940s, Juan and Alberto Ramos grow up in a wealthy family divided by conflict. Their boyhood yearnings and adventures coincide with Cuba’s revolutionary upheaval of the late Fifties. With instability escalating on the island, the Ramos family makes a heartrending decision. Juan and Alberto’s father chooses to stay in Cuba while the brothers, their nanny, and their mother move to Miami to start new lives.
Over the course of their youth, the brothers’ frequent encounters and unique connections with Fidel Castro in Cuba and then with John F. Kennedy in America leave the brothers enamored with the larger-than-life images of these two brilliant, yet flawed leaders. Ultimately, Juan and Alberto trust in their bond of brotherly love as the guiding force to fulfilling their hopes and dreams.
Spanning over twenty years in the lives of the brothers and covering nearly a half-century of the lives of their extended family, The Ramos Brothers Trust Castro and Kennedy weaves together an intimate coming-of-age tale with a multi-generational family saga. This is the epic story of two courageous boys as they endure hardship and tragedy to become extraordinary young men during one of the most pivotal eras of the 20th Century.
Empire of the Mind: poems (2014)
After two well-received novels, Roger DeBlanck’s third book, Empire of the Mind, is an extraordinary collection of his selected poems. Written over the span of nearly twenty-five years, these poems evoke the same type of conscientious awareness, vivid imagery, and emotional impact that are trademarks of his fiction.
In the Preface to this book, DeBlanck expresses his reverence for literature and how he credits poetry with making him a writer. Whether addressing tragedies throughout history or meditating on the revitalizing forces of nature, the common thread in each poem is a universal vision of humanity and what it means to be alive and to find peace and sanctity in life. Whether dazzling with joy or reflective with sorrow, the poems yearn for an ideal world.
With grace and intelligence, DeBlanck’s work can feel hypnotic with its richness and resonance of language, the compactness and precision of his phrasings, and the dreamlike hopefulness for what is beyond this world. Furthermore, he is also a very grateful poet. A number of his pieces are composed in homage to literary figures he admires: Albert Camus, Jorge Luis Borges, and Toni Morrison.
The aim of the poems is often compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. Even when the subject matter is haunting in its visceral descriptions, we feel empowered with the need to remember the past as an ongoing force for change. What we ultimately have in Empire of the Mind is an indelible, heartfelt collection of poems from a writer exhibiting the range of his imaginative powers.
I have reviewed over 625 books on a wide range of literature: novels, short story collections, poetry, biographies, non-fiction of diverse subjects, books for children, and books for young adults. To read any of my reviews, visit my author page on Goodreads.
Blog & Essays
A few times each year on my blog I post updates and reflections about my writing projects. I also use my blog to share my essays on subjects important to me. Check out my postings: Goodreads blog.
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