With such a title, this book can bring a lot of things into mind. Combined with the Arabic sounding name, Murad Kalam (born Godffrey Williams), this book can easily refer to the journey undertaken by Prophet Muhammad to have an audience the Divine to receive firsthand the command to pray five times a day. But no, this book is far from that–although probably yes in spirit.
It narrates the life of Eddie Bloodpath (what a Hollywood name! like a real Heavy metal band name). Growing up in the poor part of Phoenix in an underprivileged family, Eddie is familiar with rough life since very young. In his mid/late teens, he finds his calling in boxing. For a time, this book is similar to any powerful contemporary Africa-American literature the likes of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man or Richard Wright’s Native Son. There is, however, a significant portion of the story that feels different from those giant books: a section about Eddie’s involvement with the Nation of Islam, which introduces him to dignity, discipline, and sense of direction. Interestingly, the book does not end with this. As pointed out by a critic, the book successfully saves Eddie from being a mouthpiece of such ideology. Life goes on for Eddie with a unique turn, shaping him from a boy who is shocked into muteness by his father’s flight into a young man capable of deciding things for himself, although nobody will know what life has in store for Eddie.
By the way, for those interested in the spiritual/religious aspect of Muslim American literature, the Nation of Islam and the post-Nation of Islam part is an interesting take. I don’t think I’ve seen any late 20th century and early 21th century African American literature that talks about NOI in this manner. And, as is common in Muslim American literature, there’s also some critique of the religion/religious practice that any Muslim American can value…
So, why is it called Night Journey? I’m still not sure. Probably because a lot of the thinking process happens during night travels? Probably because to reach some kind of light one has to go through a night journey? Because Eddie’s journey is dark but still promises hope of some sort?