Booklite: The New Moon’s Arms

I recently finished Nalo Hopkinson’s The New Moon’s Open Arms, a birthday gift to the speculative fiction lover in me. I usually like to write a short book review/synopsis in the booklite to highlight all the things that intrigued about a book, but I found one that was so beautifully and carefully written. So, I’m including parts of that here – there’s no way I could write about this book the way Nuzhut Abbas does (I guess that’s why it’s on Hopkinson’s website, huh?):

Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci commented on the curious and beautiful phenomenon of “Earthshine,” also known as “the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms.” In the Codex Leicester, he wrote: “Some have believed that the moon has some light of its own, but this opinion is false, for they have based it upon that glimmer visible in the middle between the horns of the new moon . . . this brightness at such a time being derived from our ocean and the other inland seas . . .”

Old Moon in New Moon's Arms

Old Moon in New Moon’s Open Arms

In The New Moon’s Arms, Toronto writer Nalo Hopkinson draws out the metaphoric implications of this uncanny vision of the full moon held in the arms of a waxing crescent. Reworking ancient connections between women, oceans, time and the moon, the novel tells the story of Calamity (once known as Chastity), a sensual, stubborn woman negotiating death, menopause, childhood and loss on the fictional archipelago of Cayaba in the Caribbean. Struggling to escape a difficult childhood on the small island of Blessée, scarred by her mother’s mysterious disappearance, her father’s subsequent imprisonment, the painful taunts of her wealthier classmates and her teenage pregnancy, Chastity renames herself Calamity to enter adulthood, punning on her propensity for inducing chaos, but also her relentless curiosity and daring.

(source – read more)

What Abbas’ review is missing though, is drawing a connection between a seemingly marginal tale about the dada hair lady, who, on the full moon, uses the mystical power of her menses to lead a grand transformation of enslaved africans into mermaid-like “sea people” to escape the Middle Passage. This reveals yet another layer to the tale – the sea people and the black Caribbean folk of Cayaba share parts of the same history of enslavement. In the land people’s exoticism and xenophobia of the mermaids, Calamity comes to see a power and freedom in transformation through her experiences with the sea people, which ultimately saves her from losing the most precious things – people and family – as she recreates herself.

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~ by Anayah on May 28, 2007.

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