Joseph Fafa, a Nigerian student, begins his undergraduate medical studies in 1977 at North Carolina College. His first day there, Joseph meets Wendy Crane, a Caucasian student. Joseph is unaware that Wendy comes from a prestigious and powerful family. Because they are medical students, Joseph and Wendy spend a great deal of time studying together, and, over time, they fall in love. But it is the late 1970s, and interracial relations only exacerbate the bigoted diatribe lurking about campus. Joseph and Wendy have plans to go through medical school together and eventually get married. But when Joseph learns that the school board rescinds his scholarship to the school’s post-graduate medical program, Joseph has to try to move on with his life without Wendy.
Rising author Fidelis O. Mkparu crafts a love story interlaced with issues that are more fact than fiction. Using elements from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Mkparu aptly captures the reality of an African student seeking a better life in America; like many foreign students coming to America for the first time, Joseph may be filled with hopes and dreams, but he is alone. Early on in his debut, Mkparu zeroes in on Joseph’s emotional vulnerability as well as his naiveté separated from the comfort of family and friends when he unexpectedly finds himself helplessly in love with Wendy, a wealthy white girl. Interestingly, Wendy has her own issues with vulnerability, because she is desperately trying to free herself from her bigoted familial environs.
The magnetism between the lovers is immediate and strong. Mkparu does a stellar job not only developing their individual personas, but then also incorporating them within an intense need-based relationship. Mkparu underpins a constant theme of racism amid alternating scenes largely between Joseph and Wendy, but also covering other aspects of Joseph’s life as well. One striking aspect is the cultural differences between the lovers. For example, Joseph understands bigotry from a religious standpoint, because he has lived through civil war (between Muslims and Christians), plus has lost loved ones in the process. That said, Joseph has a totally different perception of the phrase “Campus Crusade,” compared to what Wendy acknowledges as a Christian revival service.
A must-read, Love’s Affliction is an exceptionally gripping and poignant story. While intense throughout, there is resolution and not quite what one may expect!
Fidelis O. Mkparu
Harvard Square Editions