Thursday, 3 February 2011

Sneak Preview - 27th Sept 2010

Today I am offering you a cheeky sneak peek of one of the stories from Stars in Unexpected Places - my upcoming short story collection. After my friend Rudo (who read this to make sure I wasn’t making up lies about Southern Africa) you are the first people to read this story (well, part of it!)  I wanted to share the opening paragraphs to give a bit of background about the collection and the point of this whole exercise for me.

When I was 22 I went to Zambia with the international aid and development charity Tearfund. It woke me up and set me straight in equal measures. I have never forgotten it, never stopped thinking about the people that I met and never lost the sense of thankfulness for everything that I have. It’s not just about material possessions. It’s opportunity, freedom. A child being able to say - I want to be a doctor - and it being a possibility.  

The extract linked to below is from a story called ‘My name is Waceena’. I named it this partly because I met a wonderful Waceena in Zambia and wanted to dedicate the story to her, but also because of a Twitter conversation I found myself in the middle of a couple of months ago.
Now, I’ll set the record straight before I start – I don’t wish Malaria on anyone. I did, however, find it remarkable how upset all the magazines and papers were when Cheryl Cole contracted Malaria (and I said so on Twitter). It’s not that contracting Malaria isn’t terrible. It is. My point is that it’s equally terrible that a child in Zambia contracts Malaria and yet no one is writing (or tweeting) about that. In some ways you could say it is much more upsetting for the child in Zambia as there is no chance they will be flown to the London Hospital of Tropical Medicine, or receive any healthcare at all unless their parents sell everything to get it. A life in the public forum is not more valuable that one lived out in the slums, or at least I don't think so anyway.

One person on Twitter said ‘Well I don’t know these people and I know Cheryl’. Ok. Whether seeing someone on the X Factor constitutes knowing them is a question in itself, but in so many ways I just don’t think that cuts it. So I wrote this story as an attempt to give a voice to one of the many stories that I encountered in Zambia. Stories that I think matter and should be heard. If we need to know names and stories, well then here we are (see the short stories tab above!)

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