Monthly Archives: December 2012

old ties

I just spent a wonderful hour talking with a woman I haven’t seen since 1967 in Nigeria.

When I paint I often find memory rising up around me so dense and real that it’s hard to press it away. I’d been thinking of Jean and her infinite kindness to the child I was, in a place that had hardly another child around and none of my age. (Nigerian children worked except for the few lucky enough to go to school and there was no nearby school for any of us. I did correspondence school and kept to the company of adults and servants and my much younger little sister.)

Jean taught me to catch insects and preserve the specimens and can you imagine what a wealth of experience that opened up, in a climate like West Africa? It occurred to me it might be possible to see if she still lived, (she is ninety now) and I guessed I should try what I thought was once her home town in the United States. With some help from my husband, we found a street address for her — a great triumph — I wrote a letter and mailed it off.

A few days later the telephone rang and I looked at the caller id. with a shock of wonder.

She remembered me, she remembered everything.  She remembered our family and the strange and good times we had in Nigeria  at Umudike before the war.  She reminded me of how she liked to walk and how once she went out on her own down one of the paths into the jungly area and noticed several vines hanging from the trees overhead and around her. All was well until one of them moved and looked at her. She said to me “I would have won an Olympic medal for the running I did then, and I never stopped until I reached home!”

 I shall mail Jean a copy of my book about the Nigerian Civil War. When I told her I had written this, she understood immediately, and we spoke of what that had been like, from her adult perspective and my child’s view. 

Sometimes the past is not to be kept in the past, sometimes we can do time travel.



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have a look at this!

My pitch for the Nigerian novel is one of the ten featured right now…

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Blog of the Year 2012 Award; 12/9/12

Blog of the Year 2012 Award; 12/9/12. Wonderful blog full of gorgeous pictures of one of my favorite areas.


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Night Must Wait and history

         Most readers asked about expatriate writings on Africa will think of Let’s Not Go To The Dogs TonightWest with the Night, Out of Africa, all of which are memoirs. This is not, though it may attract some of the same audience fascinated with Africa.

         Maybe we can consider The Poisonwood Bible and Nowhere in Africa instead. Though the latter is also memoir, it has a similar sense of the mystical and fantastic that in Africa feels only a breath away from any motion, any glance.

         Loosely based on history, Night Must Wait gives expatriate views of the complex war fought by Nigeria to keep the area declared ‘Biafra’ from seceding from the nation. There’s wrong committed on all sides. Night  is filled by a burgeoning vital land, with natural wealth, beauty and people whose first instincts and traditions offered hospitality and kindness. I present the colonial attitude, the illusion that imposing the European/North American societal mores might cure every ill, both physical and economic of the young giant, Nigeria.

         A reader should put this book down feeling satisfied about the characters and their fates, but also intrigued and haunted by the immensity and power of this black African nation with all of its problems, its needs, and the haunting question of what comes next for it and for us. The promise is there, but how will the Nigerians release it?

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