• a novel by ihsan bracy • ISBN: 978-1-887276-49-8
Cover art: Rafael Leonardo Black • Paths of Sanctuary is a magic-realism novel which traces the life of an African-American family from enslavement in 1786 through post reconstruction to its eventual settling in Sanctuary, a small mountain village situated geographically just below the first gates of heaven. The novel centers on the forbidden commingling of the people of clay (humans) with the people of fire (angels) and the friction that occurs whenever two bordering cultures co-exist. Told in an almost lyrical narrative, Paths of Sanctuary explores the hidden complexities discovered within family, including the trials found within infidelity, friendship and love.
“At times his writing is so lyrical you are easily swept away by the beauty of his words. The world he has created is full of magical-realism, colorful, interesting characters worth rooting for, and a litany of sub-plots that often commands more attention than the main plot. And, the third-person, exposition-heavy narrative allows readers to observe characters from various points of view.—” AALBC Jill Robinson
The human characters are utterly human and equally flawed. Those flaws and a variety of misunderstandings all drive the story toward an inevitable series of tragedies. Bracy’s prose is both mystical and muscular and therefore utterly appropriate. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries but not for “gentle readers.”—Library Journal Jim Dwyer
“Bracy depicts myriad aspects of African American family dynamics. This tragic novel delves back into the horrific slave trade and merges into present emancipation at the Gates of Heaven. The author creatively carves out mystical characters with names such as Dance, Time, Passage, and Silence. Each character’s life exemplifies his or her name. This novel is filled with hints of voodoo and the paranormal.”
“Issues surrounding marriage are depicted in this novel. The young couple is very happy at the beginning of their marriage. Dance is responsible and faithful, while Time is an industrious wife. Each one however, brings baggage into the marriage, and when life’s pressures hit, the negative aspects of both emerge. Problems in this marriage include ineffective communication, listening to gossip, alcoholism, infidelity, and even incest.”—Multicultural Review Maxine Agazie
“Paths of Sanctuary is a magic-realism novel which traces the life of an African-American family from enslavement in 1786 through post reconstruction to its eventual settling in Sanctuary, a small mountain village situated geographically just below the first gates of heaven. The novel centers on the forbidden commingling of the people of clay (humans) with the people of fire (angels) and the friction that occurs whenever two bordering cultures co-exist. Told in an almost lyrical narrative, Paths of Sanctuary explores the hidden complexities discovered within family, including the trials found within infidelity, friendship and love.
This novel works with both hands, a visionary work with a command of craft that ensures Ihsan Bracy’s literary legacy, work that acclaims the craftsman a master and makes it all worthwhile. An exquisite post modern folkology, the novel every writer wants to write and every reader wants to read.” —Arthur Flowers, De Mojo Blues, Another Good Lovin’ Blues, Confessions of a 21st Century Conjure Man
“ihsan bracy is a visionary wordsmith. In a story that spans both time and the imagination, he has managed to capture the most painful and yet the most beautiful of our experience, while gifting us with an epic, bordercrossing story that transcends the conventional, and leaves readers lifted. Thank you ihsan, for journeying on. Paths of Sanctuary is well worth the wait.” – Sheree Renee Thomas, Editor of the Dark Matter Series
“Bracy is a writer unafraid to enter the deepest night to find the brighter light within. In his invention, I see our own as Black Americans, a winding road through an emotional landscape, taking us from our rough arrival to new knowledge of self and destiny.”— Terence Taylor, Dark Dreams, Voices from the Other Side, Whispers in the Night, Bite Marks
CoolGrovePress is a recipient of the 2007-2008 Face Out Re-grant from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses [CLMP] . The publication of Paths of Sanctuary has been possible in part due to this grant.
in the path of a-che
the red clay path runs from the shore uphill for nearly a quarter of a mile before opening unto a vista revealing the ancient city below. in the distance, salmon colored adobe walls rise alongside connecting red mud footpaths. in this season of fullness the purple skies glow in the warmth of a magenta sunset as spirit-boats return to shore, their white sails slack, their nets full, laden down with the catch of the day, drawn in by evening tides. sunset colors dance off spirit-guides dressed in white garb, gathering in the oncoming dusk. fires lit alongside the shore signal closing off of spirit-passageways as the business of yet another day eases towards its’ end.
entering the gates of the spirit-women’s compound carrying the infant close to her body, the elderly angel is met by a calling of sacred drums, ringing of ancient bells, the unison of many spirit-women chanting in meditation and the sound of spirit-children hard at play.
not long past the gates the path divides in two. one way traverses alongside a steep incline, across a shining bridge of fire and runs up towards a white domed clay compound sitting on a cliff overlooking and reflected in the quiet waters of a golden sea below. the other path forks along the compound wall for a short distance before opening onto a sprawling plateau. in between the trees small white mud adobe like structures dot the field of vision as far as the eye could see. as the spirit-woman reaches the yard of her dwelling she is suddenly surrounded by a growing number of spirit-children, fascination clear within their eyes as they silently join the growing and strange procession, clearly watching the bundle she carries with rapt attention. before opening the flap to enter her dwelling, the spirit-elder turns and pulls back her outer robes revealing the foundling to the community. the spirit-children gather around the baby amidst peals of laughter and exhaust their interest before suddenly turning as one and beginning to run downhill, following the path toward the sea.
-blessings of the ancestors upon you nana,
calls out the black, black spirit-sister crossing toward the spirit-elder and the foundling, trailed by a black, black spirit-child not yet six-years-old.
-and upon you too, ntoto
replies the spirit-elder,
-come, look at what mother ocean has given me.
the two spirit-women huddle around the foundling while the spirit-child keeps a distance, his eyes keenly focused on the bundle held just above his head. he doesn’t follow all of their conversation but gathers somehow that the baby has been found and doesn’t seem to belong to anyone. finally after pulling on his mother’s garb twice, she focuses her full attention,
-what is it ladji?
he points until the spirit-elder brings the bundle down to eye level. he silently studies the foundling with a great intensity before folding his arms tightly across his near six-year-old chest, proudly declaring with simple conviction, a big smile and no hesitation,
-this my baby!
after another thought he adds,
-…and we need to call her a-che.
Ihsan Bracy Abdul-Rahiim
Sadly, following a long and unforgiving struggle with complications due to an advanced condition of diabetes, at an early hour on March 14th, 2009, our dear author and friend departed from this plane of existence. He is survived by his wife Islah Sah, daughter Zakiyyah, and sons Mustapha and Jihad.
A graduate of Bennington College, Ihsan Bracy was a former member of the New York State Council on the Arts and former chair of the Theatre Department of Talent Unlimited High School, NYC’s second largest performing arts high school. Ihsan’s major educational credits include directing five Manhattan, three NYC and a third place National Shakespeare Championship as well as an ARTS National Finalist in Theatre. A spoken word and Brooklyn based artist, Ihsan had performed all across the city including a long running appearance at The Triad as part of composer Michael Raye’s Soul Gathering.
Author of two volumes of poetry, cadre and the ubangi files, Ihsan had twice been a CAPS Finalist and had been elected to the New Renaissance Writer’s Guild. Paths of Sanctuary was his second work of fiction with Cool Grove Press (Feb. 2008). His first book was Ibo Landing: an offering of short stories, (CGP 1998). As artistic Director and Founder of The Tribe Ensemble, a multi-ethnic theater repertory company based out of the Jamaica Arts Center for thirteen years, Ihsan authored and directed Against the Sun, the Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831. A former member of The Family (La Familia) Inc., his credits included prolonged theatre workshops at Bayview Correctional Facility for Women, the Spofford Home for Juveniles and Riker’s Island, which culminated in a forty prison inner city tour. Ihsan directed Juan Shamsul Alam’s Benpires which received a Pulitzer Prize nomination in theatre. Ihsan also served as the Arts and Education Coordinator of The Mirror Repertory Company.