Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Emily Raboteau's "Searching for Zion"

Emily Raboteau is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Professor's Daughter. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best African American Fiction, The Guardian, Oxford American, Tin House, and elsewhere. Recipient of numerous awards including a Pushcart Prize and a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Raboteau also teaches writing at City College, in Harlem.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora:
Imagining Searching for Zion as a movie is a little disconcerting since it’s a memoir. But it pleases me to imagine giving work to so many black actors. Since the book is an exploration of Zionist movements across the African diaspora it would have an even more variegated cast than The Wire, which I loved for its broad spectrum of black experience. The production would need to be shot in the locations I traveled: Israel, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana and areas of the southern United States. The soundtrack would include Negro spirituals, gospel music and reggae songs about Zion and/or the “Promised Land,” including Bob Marley’s “Iron, Lion, Zion.” This would be my dream-cast of the major roles:

Rashida Jones of The Office and Parks and Recreation as myself. She’s got the racial ambiguity to pull it off and the right comic sensibility. Also, I like to kid myself that I’m that hot. She looks young enough to play the 23 year-old I was at the start of my journey as well as the 33 year-old I was at the finish.

Record producer Quincy Jones (Rashida’s father) as my father, Princeton professor, Albert Raboteau. Jones may not be an actor, but the man produced Thriller. He’s got the gravitas and the charm.

Natalie Portman as my courageous childhood best friend, Tamar, who lives in Israel.

Comedian/musician Reggie Watts as my boyfriend, then husband, Victor. They’re lovably weird in similar ways.

Am I allowed to resurrect people from the dead for this exercise? Because I can’t imagine casting anyone other than the late Ossie Davis alongside his wife, Ruby Dee, as John and Mary Ellen Ray, the disillusioned, hilarious, bohemian, American ex-pat couple I had the pleasure of meeting in Ghana.

Bob Marley’s widow, Rita Marley, as herself.

Mutabaruka as Brother Bryan, a Jamaican emigrant, “jack of all-trades,” living in Shashemene, Ethiopia.

Cedric the Entertainer as the slick Atlanta-based televangelist of the prosperity gospel, Reverend Creflo Dollar.

Delroy Lindo as Dr. Khazriel, Head of the School of the Prophets in the Black Hebrew community of Dimona, Israel.

Kim Coles as my cousin Tracy, a Hurricane Katrina survivor transplanted from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi to Atlanta. They don’t look alike but exude the same kind of warmth.
Learn more about the book and author at Emily Raboteau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue