Book Review: The Sons Of Shea

Book Cover Images image of The Sons Of Shea

by Dame DaVohn

Publication Date: Sep 01, 2008
List Price: $19.99
Format: Paperback
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780982038901
Imprint: Affinity Publishing
Publisher: Affinity Publishing
Parent Company: Affinity Publishing

Read a Description of The Sons Of Shea

Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming

In Dame DaVohn’s novel of self-determination and redemption, The Sons of Shea, the characters and plot seem ripped from the headlines. The setting of this contemporary fictional drama is Stonegate, Michigan, where the locals enjoyed the boom times of the automotive industry, but now the financial bottom has fallen out of the good lives they enjoyed. With the 1980s and 1990s, auto plants and factories closed, and the people of this once-stable community have seen scourge after scourge strike their small city, known as “The Rock.” Drugs, murder, and mayhem robbed the promise of the city.

Enter Bishop, a proud son of Stonegate, who returns to “The Rock” after school and exposure to the outside world. His father, a former Black Panther, schooled him on the noble role of Black men in the survival of the community. Bishop was an only child and when his father died of cancer during college study, he decided to find his position in his own place. His emotional and spiritual strength is bolstered by the early demise of his mother when he was only four years old.

DaVohn, as an author, hammers away at the cultural nationalist themes of renewal and redemption of a community by its people, namely its men. It’s almost a fictional vision akin to a novel which would have been written by a young Huey Newton or Marcus Garvey. When Bishop rides to the rescue to his community, he knows that nothing will be easy and that the stakes will be high. Like the Black Panthers or the Nation of Islam, he realizes that the frustration and hopelessness holding the people back is very potent and caused by their confusion by their daily doses of lies and dogma from their local ministers and politicians. He knows these are not opponents to be taken lightly.

Sometimes wordy and verbose, sometimes caught in a firestorm of social and cultural ideas, DaVohn paints a picture that every African American understands: “The quickest path to success, which by the way meant driving a car with rims that cost more than the average American brings home in a month, a sound system that made the windows of homes tremble as they passed by, and being clad in the fashion fad of the day, was to boom a little dope, double-up your money, and boom a little more until you were big enough to move a little weight.”

Schooled in ancestral history of our elders, the author gives the motivation for a new movement to Bishop, who then teaches his philosophy of transformation to his small band of followers. He teaches them self-love and love for the community around them.

Like the leader he is, Bishop explains: “A lot of times, love requires us to mortgage everything we own in order to will it to survive. Love is what drove the Panthers, the young brother and sisters of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), the SCLC (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), the Freedom Riders, the NAACP, and so many powerful Black organizations. The problem is that it’s not enough for the leaders to love the people and the people to love the leaders somehow, we’ve got to convince the people that they are worth loving themselves.”

And Bishop, the all-knowing sage, realizes that people who love themselves and their community will not tolerate gangstas, pimps, or murderers. He teaches his disciples that they must take a people who have been beaten down, stripped, and humiliated before the world and restore them to their rightful selves. That was the challenge of the movement, he says, and they clean up the run-down Woodland Park before going out spreading their message.

The pleasure of the novel is Bishop’s maturation and evolution, and how he deeply touches the lives of the people he meets: Chase, Terrell, Set, Carmen, Tony, Tonya, Ella, Big Will, among others. He doesn’t see the vitality and creativity of the youth, especially the males, as a potential threat, but as an abundant energy to be harnessed. There are some fine moments of intimacy between Bishop and Ella, as they move beyond the realm of the flesh to the soul level.

Also, it’s the narrative journey of Bishop’s founding of the self-help group, the Sons of Shea, to his formation of the larger mission, the New Rock Movement, which is fascinating to follow. And even when Bishop succumbs to the dark forces in the community, the positive principles of the movement move on to city after city.

At the heart and soul of this bold and wise novel is a singular understanding of the African American urban experience. DaVohn instinctively know what connects us, what strengthens us, and that is what makes this work worthwhile.

Read Affinity Publishing’s description of The Sons Of Shea.

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