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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In his wildly imaginative historical first novel, Robert Barclay has wrought a sobering morality tale that defies categorization. Melal is the story of the clashing of two cultures and the fight of a native island people to preserve their ancestral way of life despite the presence of the American military.
The Marshall Islands -- the lushly tropical setting for Melal -- spent nearly 40 years under U.S. administration. During this trusteeship, the United States used the islands to test the most powerful weapons on earth. On the now-polluted, densely populated island of Ebeye, we meet the Keju family: Rujen, a widower who, with the help of his extended clan, is raising his two sons. A native Marshallese, Rujen has spent his adult life working for the Americans to obtain the marginal level of acceptance he now enjoys. In true colonial fashion, Americans are suspicious of the islanders, who are forced to live in comparative squalor.
Rujen's older son, Jebro, rejects his father's attempts to assimilate, choosing instead to embrace his ancestry. As he teaches the lessons of their heritage to his younger brother, the extraordinarily complex and mysterious Marshallese folklore comes to life. Theirs is an exciting, frightening, and haunting journey -- one that slowly brings to light the cultural essence needed to create strength within a society, and that forces the reader to question our capability of achieving that same strength in our own. Melal is an important tale to which only this talented Pacific Islander could do justice. (Summer 2002 Selection)