Dashiel (Dash) Douglas has recently written a novel called Spirit King: Return of the Crown and you might recognize aspects of its narrative. This adventurous tale is infused with teachings and principles of the Baha’i Faith and, having featured Baha’i-inspired novels on Baha’i Blog before such as Consulting Detective and The Woman Who Read Too Much, we were curious to find out more.
Here’s what Dash shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
From an early age, adventure in far-off lands stirred within me. I had a particular longing in my heart for Africa. Fortunately, my wife’s soul was equally drawn to the mother continent. Our decision to pioneer was the best one we have made for our family. Our love for the peoples and cultures of the world first took us to South Africa, then Ghana, and then Kenya.
Our nine years in Africa was a defining time for me. It may sound cliche, but in South Africa it felt like I was alive for the first time. My spirit soared on the rhythm of African life, the radiance of the African people and their vibrant spirit of worship. The love of God seems naturally woven into the consciousness of Africans. Their faith in, and reliance upon, God is palpable. Seeing people beam with joy while not knowing when they will next be able to eat, changed me at my core. My whole perspective on life was transformed into a greater desire to serve the Cause of God.
So the best way to explain who I am is through the southern Africa philosophy called Ubuntu: ‘A person is a person through other people.’ I finally began to understand myself through my African brothers and sisters.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book?
Spirit King: Return of the Crown is a story of faith, justice and redemption set in an inner-city immigrant community and in rural Central Africa.
D’Melo Bantu, a 17-year-old basketball standout in Philadelphia, rejects his African heritage. But a personal tragedy forces him to return to his homeland of Kipaji, a region of Malunga in Central Africa. For 2,000 years, Kipaji has been entrusted to be the guardian of a mysterious power called Haya, which it has successfully kept safely hidden from the eyes of the world… until now.
Upon arriving in Kipaji, D’Melo is thrust to the center of a civil conflict triggered by an epic conspiracy involving his father. D’Melo uncovers a plot by the Malungan president to destroy Kipaji and take control of Haya. With the fate of Kipaji in peril, will D’Melo be able to rally the Spirit King within him in time to save Kipaji and clear his father’s name?
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write it?
As a Baha’i, I see the world through the lens of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation. Layering this with my love for Africa stirred the creative energies within my heart. It was only natural that this creativity would manifest itself into a story permeated with the spirit of Africa framed within the visionary and transformative teachings of Baha’u’llah.
Spirit King sat in my ‘story ideas’ folder for 15 years. It took this long to put it into writing because I didn’t have an authentic feel for Africa, never having lived there. Also, my confidence to write fiction was shaky. But after the success of my first book, a travel memoir (This is Africa: A Dream Chaser’s Odyssey), my confidence grew enough to take the plunge into fiction. And I’m glad that I did — I love it!
Baha’i Blog: What principles of the Baha’i Faith are Interwoven into the plot, the characters and the narrative?
The fabric of Spirit King is woven together by Baha’i principles and concepts: the Dawn of a new Day; the destructive forces of disunity; consultation as a vital tool of community life; the inordinate disparity between the rich and the poor; agriculture as the economic foundation of society; and harmony with nature. Spirit King has high-minded and moral principal characters, with strong and complex female characters. But, at its foundation, Spirit King explores the powers of faith, love and justice, which are not always black and white.
Baha’i Blog: How did your beliefs as a Baha’i inform your writing of this novel?
In many ways, Kipaji is a glimpse into what the world could look like as Baha’u’llah’s Revelation transforms both the individual and collective life of every land and people. Baha’u’llah’s teachings about the nobility of man, freedom from all forms of prejudice, and justice as the foundation of unity motivated the development of this story. I hope Spirit King, as a suspenseful drama, conveys the potential impact of the teachings of Baha’u’llah on individual lives, communities, and the world at large.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away with them, long after they’ve finished reading?
I would be overjoyed if the story is able to shine the light of hope into the hearts of readers, as well serve as a benchmark for how to infuse positive and visionary themes that reorient the minds of readers. I also hope that readers get lost in this adventure in such a way that when they turn the final page, they are left longing for the sequel: Spirit King: Daughter of the Akhtiar.
Finally, I feel that fiction focused on inner-city life in America and rural Africa is severely underrepresented in literature. These are ultra-rich worlds with an endless well of compelling stories. After reading Spirit King, I hope that people will desire to read more African and African-American fiction.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Dash, for telling us about your book!
You can purchase Dash’s book from online and local book retailers and here on Amazon: Spirit King: Return of the Crown