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Roberta Olsen Major
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Unwisely, Jumanahâ€™s daughter confronts the wicked suzerain, setting her feet on a path into darkness, across moon-drenched desert sands, and at last to hard-won wisdom.
Who is Jumanahâ€™s daughter--and would someone please tell her where that voice in her ear is coming from?
My mother was a carpet.
She was a threadbare carpet upon which the suzerain and his many wives and concubines cleaned the dusts of the deserts from their tasseled slippers.
Or perhaps she was a cushion.
She was simply an unworthy cushion upon which he no longer deigned to rest his over-large buttocks.
Whether it was the royal rear or the royal feet with which he chose to impress her made no difference. The end result was that, as some cultures not my own might say, the suzerain was either a "bumâ€ or a "heelâ€. And my mother, Jumanah, spent too much of her very short lifetime groveling before him.
Once upon a time, she told me, she was the youngest of his brides, cherished and treasured, fed sweetmeats and candied figs by his own bejeweled hands.
She was a waif of fourteen when she caught his eye, bought from parents too poor to deny him, schooled for a year and a day before being brought to the bridal chamber.
He was gentle, she told me, tender, and she bloomed like a flower in his hands.
But the suzerain had no use for blossoming concubines, for they swelled and threw up, and were restless in their sleep.
And so the suzerainâ€™s wandering eyes alighted on another jewel more fair than the fair Jumanah.
And so it went, until, on the day I was born, he no longer even remembered Jumanahâ€™s name, nor cared that he now had a daughter called Jamila.
And thus it unfolded for fifteen years, until the womenâ€™s chamber was as full of sweets as his enormous belly.
I was a child of the shadows. I learned early to linger in the corners of the citadel, to speak so softly that others soon forgot me altogether.
From Jumanah I learned that the Wise One gave us two ears, but one mouth, so that we might listen twice as much as we speak. And so I listened.
I listened as the keeper of the larder kicked a small cat lapping at a spilled puddle of goatâ€™s milk.
I listened as the hungry ones outside the citadel walls implored the suzerainâ€™s servants for a rind of cheese or a piece of bread with which to feed their starving children.
Roberta Olsen Major wore out two toy typewriters as a child before her parents decided it would be more frugal to provide her with the real thing. Throughout junior high and high school, she used two fingers to tap out lurid, angst-filled stories peopled with impossibly beautiful characters speaking highly improbable dialogue.
After earning a BA from Brigham Young University, she worked as a librarian in sensible shoes, before switching her Major to the care and feeding of a scientific husband and two charming children.
A published playwright and reviewer of childrenâ€™s books, she now lives in Texas, where she collects dust, gets taken for daily walks by her faithful Schnauzers, and is, as always, working on her next book.
The Ice Cream Crone: "â€¦a galloping romp of hilarity on a quest of pure enjoyment. Roberta Olsen Major delights her readers with wit, puns, and good old sillinessâ€¦ filled with the perfect combination of chivalry and jovialityâ€¦ Life, love and the pursuit of laughter reignâ€¦â€ --Joyce Handzo, In the Library Reviews, October 10, 2003
The Ice Cream Crone: "â€¦ takes â€˜happily ever afterâ€™ a hop, skip and a jump farther, leading the child in us all on a merry romp through â€˜what ifâ€™.â€ -- Pam Ripling, author of Locker Shock!
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 140
Paper Weight (lb): 6.2