Author Archives: Nicole Eva Fraser

“Fog and Light” by Nicole Eva Fraser

Fog and LightI was standing alone at my kitchen sink with a bottle of Heineken and my thoughts and my view of the Indiana sky, remembering the story, silently, for myself.

The very first thing was Hunter saying, “Here’s my house—yeah, this one. Thanks for the ride, Coach.” Then he jumped out of my silver Corvette and started walking up the driveway, bouncing his basketball. I watched him go: long seventeen-year-old legs, neck burned brown on summer courts, his confidence unpretentious. Reminds me of me.

Hunter had played basketball for me two years already, starting as a freshman. Now he was a junior and I had him in AP English, too.

I had just turned forty-one. In my years of teaching and coaching I’d met thousands of kids, many of them exceptional, but Hunter was more than just a good kid—he was a missing piece, a missing person, he was history that had long ago slipped through my fingers but was now, somehow, restored.

“Hey, I should meet your mom and dad finally—gotta start talking about college! Tell them we should set something up,” I called from the car, top down for the warm afternoon.

“Okay,” Hunter called back, and disappeared behind the house.

It was late September and sunny. It was Indian summer and a few leaves were falling, some withered brown, some crimson and orange, falling around my car as I drove away, dreams that had fallen from grace, catching the hope of an updraft briefly, then falling back to earth, drifting, sailing, falling back to earth.

The suburban rush-hour roads were humming with traffic. At some point I glanced over my shoulder to change lanes and saw that Hunter had forgotten his book bag behind the seat. Kid’s got basketball on his mind. Nothing wrong with that. I slowed down, turned around on a side street. Hope I can find his house again. I was in no hurry to get home to dinner for one, quiet hanging in the air, English compositions to grade, phone calls and basketball game tapes to fill the empty spaces.

I parked in Hunter’s driveway and reached around for the book bag. Whoa, tonnage here. The bag was half unzipped and I looked inside. Trigonometry, physics, history, the latest Sports Illustrated, a smashed bag of potato chips.

Reminds me of me.

I zipped the book bag shut and carried it up the stone path to Hunter’s front door. Big brick house, lots of flowers in the garden. Heard muffled rock and roll coming from inside.

I rang the doorbell but nobody came. Looking through the window in the front door, I saw flowers in a vase on a table, pictures in frames dotting a tall bookshelf, and a big brown mutt asleep on a rug—not much of a watchdog. So I backtracked along the stone path and headed up the driveway, book bag slung on my shoulder.

Around back, muffled music, louder, was drifting out from a window upstairs. First I thought about knocking on the screen door. Then I took a few steps backward in the driveway and looked up toward the window.

“Hey, Hunter!” I shouted. “Hey, Hunter, it’s Coach Leighton! You left your book bag in my car—here it is!”

I remembered the first time I heard her voice, voice like rain and sunlight: “I don’t think he can hear you,” I heard this voice say. I turned around and saw a tree house in a big old oak. The branches waved and rustled, and the tree house swayed.

“Hello?” I said.

Then the voice of rain and sunlight swung down from the tree.

She was dark blonde hair, dark eyes, ponytail, swimsuit top, tiny cutoffs colored like a piece of sky. She said, “I’m Julia. Hunter’s mom.” That was when I understood everything that had ever happened to me and when almost none of it mattered anymore. Forget bad karma, unanswered prayers, a silent waiting room in a stainless steel clinic. Forget solitude, cold winters, empty promises, empty soul. Forget summa cum laude, teacher of the year, state championship trophies, glory.

“I’m Evan Leighton,” I said, somehow.

“Evan,” Julia said. She lifted one hand to fiddle with her earring, and a ray of sun lit up her wedding band, bounced off the ring and hit my heart like lightning—but even then I knew that wouldn’t stop me.

I hadn’t stayed long that afternoon—just long enough for Hunter to run downstairs and get his book bag, for me to paint the swirls and sways of Julia’s body onto my memory, for the three of us to stand together in the same ray of September sun. Julia’s hands fluttered as she spoke: she had been reading Margaret Atwood in the tree house; she loved Indian summer; she was making fettuccine Alfredo for dinner—would I like to stay? Hunter stood at Julia’s side with an ease that verged on tenderness, book bag slung on his shoulder now, biting a fingernail, looking at something in the sky.

I lingered a little longer (why did it feel like we were father, mother, and son, like I had just stepped back into my own true life), listening more than talking although my mind was working (working on what—wasn’t this hopeless?), until Hunter went back in the house, and Julia touched my arm, saying, “Good-bye, Evan,” and left traces of fog and light on my skin.

I couldn’t tell anyone about her. I couldn’t even tell my best buddy Stravinsky. If I spoke the story of Julia aloud, she would shatter into a million flecks of crystalline air and never be seen again. That would be my punishment for trying to capture her with words, for thinking I could capture fog and light and beauty in the jar of my words, for believing Julia could happen to me.

Nicole Eva Fraser is a Second Wind novelist and a ghostwriter.

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Are You Book-Worthy? by Nicole Eva Fraser

hemingway quote for are you book-worthy

Most people don’t want to write—they want to have written.

That’s a wry writers’ saying, reflecting the fact that the average person who declares “I want to write a book” really means “I want to be a world-famous bestselling author who rakes in the millions and is universally worshiped.”

However—the book-worthy person is not the average person.

To be book-worthy, the following five statements must be true of you.

(1) You have a book inside you. A book that NEEDS to be written.  

Your book has commandeered your consciousness. It’s part of you. It’s physical. Visceral. It is your phantom limb. It has suctioned itself to the front and the back of your brain. It has sunk its teeth into your leg and won’t let go.

I’m not saying your book must be a world-changing work of staggering length. I’m not even saying it has to be hard or time-consuming to write. I’m just saying it will dog you relentlessly until you stop and listen and bring it to life.

(2) You can articulate and explain the passion that’s driving you to write this book. 

You know your book intimately and you passionately love talking about it. No question is too casual or too far-ranging for you to answer. You’ve got notes in your head and on your phone and on scraps of paper and when someone asks, “What are you writing your book about?” you have your elevator speech and your Pulitzer speech on the tip of your tongue. Whether you’re on stage, conversing at a cocktail party, talking to your mother, or just talking to yourself—you can pinpoint and elaborate on the theme of your book, the takeaways for readers, the vision and inspiration you want to share, and the dream you want readers to know is possible. You ooze fervor, and you put those oozings into words.

(3) You have a clear reason why you’re writing this NOW.

No vague mission statements for you. No namby-pamby “I’ve got this great idea” or “People always tell me I should write a book.” You have a calling you must answer NOW, a purpose you need to fulfill NOW. NOW is the time and nothing can stop you.

Again, this doesn’t imply that your book must be serious or weighty—only that it’s urgent, that doing it now is crucial, and you know exactly why.

(4) You have a vision for your book and the way it will impact readers.

Your vision may be for a niche audience, for the world, or simply for yourself. Maybe it’s to entertain or encourage readers. To urge people to take a certain action. Maybe it’s to make a lasting difference to your loved ones, or author the way you want the world to remember you. Maybe it’s a memoir that will inspire and help others…or a memoir that’s for you and you alone, to affirm that your life matters.

Your vision is your inner “I Have a Dream” speech. It’s an incentive that keeps you moving, and a Polaris that keeps you on track to the finish line.

(5) You’re committed to a firm schedule and deadline for when the writing process needs to begin and end.

This is where your rubber meets your road: the unglamorous grassroots drudgery of actually doing the work.

You love the work. You hate the work. The work feeds your soul. The work sucks you dry. Like Hemingway, you sit at the typewriter and bleed. And It Feels. So. Good.

What’s the verdict—are you book-worthy?

You are? Great! Now get busy: write your book.

If you need help with the writing, contact a professional ghostwriter like me.

If you don’t have enough money to hire a pro, contact your local university’s graduate program in writing or journalism. They may be able to pair you with a grad student who can help.

Faulkner said, “If a story is in you, it has to come out.” If you’re book-worthy, you not only know that, you’re living it.

Solidarity, my book-worthy compatriot. And here’s to your success.

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, released in March 2015.

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“I Don’t Think It’s That Simple” by Nicole Eva Fraser: The Interview

IfItWasThatSimple_highResNicole Eva Fraser talks about
hating first drafts,

writing like a man,
and the unspeakable
life-draining specter
of loneliness in 
I Don’t Think It’s That Simple ~
coming this month

from Second Wind Publishing

 

Interview by Carole Howard

 

Carole Howard writes:

Though Nicole and I haven’t (yet) met in the flesh, we are fellow authors in the same publishing house, and I’ve gotten to know her – perhaps better than I know some people I have met in the flesh – through her writing.

Nicole once said, “Reading gives me a sense of belonging and community. When I see myself in someone else’s story, I remember that other people are in the same boat, that I’m not alone on the journey.”  Her latest book, I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, is a perfect example of that kind of story.

And so I introduce you to my “friend,” Nicole Eva Fraser.

Carole: First, would you briefly summarize I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, for those who haven’t yet read it?

Nicole: A high school basketball coach forms a father-son bond with his star player and falls in love with the boy’s married mother—until a surreal accident changes the course of all their futures.

Carole: And what’s the significance of the title?  No spoilers, please!

Nicole: What if someone told you one relatively simple thing that could give you the key, the freedom to make a new start in your life? Would you listen?

Carole:  I’m interested in your writing process.  Are you a seat-of-the-pantser, or someone who knows what is going to happen in the book before she starts writing it?

Nicole: My writing process is slow and involves years of rewriting. I hate writing first drafts; getting things down the first time just about kills me. Rewriting is easier. I start out with a general idea of what’s going to happen in a book, but not many specifics.

Have you heard the saying, “Most people don’t want to write; they want to have written”? I think that’s what separates writers from pretenders. Yes, writing is endlessly painful, difficult, and messy—and we love it. We can’t live without it. It’s how we’re wired. And whether or not we receive acclaim, even if no one ever reads our work but us, we keep doing it.

Carole: I’m absolutely fascinated that you could write in a male narrator’s voice.  What was that like?

Nicole: I assumed I’d write the book from Julia Atwater’s point of view, so that how I started out. But it kept feeling wrong. I couldn’t get any momentum. A voice in my head said that I should write in Evan Leighton’s voice, so I switched POVs, and the story started flowing.

It probably helped that I’ve always felt comfortable in male environs. I was a tomboy growing up. I used to know some pro ball players and coaches—the unglamorous parts of their lives. I’ve raised two sons who are athletes. For years I’ve worked out at a hole-in-the-wall gym with grunting, sweating guys, because we’re just there to get strong.

Carole: On your website, you say, “My dream to be a published writer was…. always about the fact that our stories matter, and it’s important to share them.”  When I wrote my own novels, I incorporated experiences and observations from my own life.  I assume, based on your saying that “our stories matter,” that it’s true for you, too.  Is that so?

Nicole: Another reason why Evan Leighton’s voice came naturally to me is that I am him…or I was him, at another time in my life. Growing up as a completely unwanted child. As an adult, successful on the outside, dying on the inside. An introvert who is expected to be an extrovert and can’t quite manage it, is always on the run from people. Stuck in emotional quicksand. And lonely, so desperately lonely inside.

I remember when I started out on this project, I thought I was writing a book about love…then realized I was writing a book about loneliness.

Carole: Yes, definitely a book about loneliness. And I’m guessing, from the book, that faith plays an important role in your life?

Nicole: My spiritual journey has been circuitous. In my spiritual life (and most parts of my life), I’ve always been an outsider. I’m the one who feels perpetually outside in the cold, face pressed against the glass looking in at the warm and happy group, desperate to belong but knowing that’s not my true home. At times in my life, I’ve been part of a close church family, and loved the safety of that. But something always put me on the road again. Evan Leighton personifies some of that spiritual struggle…a struggle Julia also understands, but she sticks with church for her son’s sake.

Carole: And how did you get the idea for the book in the first place — was it a plot-spark? or a character-spark?  Or something else?

Nicole: A million times through the years, I’ve shuddered thinking about how utterly alone I would have been in this life if not for my children. In the past, I wasn’t always able to stop the nightmare-thoughts about how that unspeakable life-draining specter of loneliness would have destroyed everything I tried to do if I didn’t have my children to love and love me back. Evan Leighton and Hunter Atwater came out of that.

Carole: I love-love-love the essay Hunter wrote about his three fathers.  Can you tell us (again –no spoilers, please) about writing that essay?

Nicole: That essay was one of those gifts we writers sometimes receive from the invisible plane. It popped into my head one day, just the way you saw it in the book. I didn’t change a word. The whole time I was capturing the words on paper, I cried, and my shoulders were shaking, and I cried afterward, those deep soul-sobs that feel like they’re swallowing you up into oblivion. A mystery.

Carole: How moving.  Thank you, Nicole, for telling us about your life, your book, and your writing process.

 

Nicole Eva Fraser Photo 2250x1500 BrighterNicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in March 2015.

 

 

carole howardCarole Howard (carolejhoward.wordpress.com) is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.  Set in West Africa, Deadly Adagio gives the reader a peek into Senegal, amateur orchestras, the Peace Corps, the State Department, and a tribal custom that the book’s protagonist finds brutal. All of that, plus a murder to solve!

 

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Peace Through Fiction by Nicole Eva Fraser

PTF logoDo you think Evan Leighton is a stalker—or a good guy looking for love in all the wrong places? And how about Julia Atwater—is she an innocent flirt or a shameless manipulator? The one sure thing is that they both love Julia’s teenage son Hunter—then a surreal accident changes the course of all their futures.

Evan and Julia may touch your heart, they may frustrate or infuriate you, but you’re guaranteed to recognize someone you care about—even yourself—in their story.

It’s hard to tell the heroes from the villains in my new novel, I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, coming in March from Second Wind.

That ambiguity plus the provocative subplots make  I Don’t Think It’s That Simple a great choice for book clubs and any readers who are looking for a new experience.

Peace Through Fiction, the creative reading method I developed, is a clear and easy framework you can use to guide a book club discussion of  I Don’t Think It’s That Simple or any novel you choose.

Peace Through Fiction uses the reading theory called “text connections.” Text connections happen when the reader makes a personal connection between the story and something in their own life. You read deeper, and find more meaning, when you make real-world connections from fictional characters to yourself in real life.

If you use Peace Through Fiction with the novels you read, it can change the way you think about the real things in your life. It can change the way you react to other people, and the way you handle your life experiences. Along the way, you become more peaceful, and you bring more peace to the world.

The simple method is based on classic principles of reading, conflict resolution and dialogue. I’ve researched Peace Through Fiction by studying with educators in related fields.

Peace Through Fiction is portable—the directions fit on one piece of paper. You can use it with any book, with any age group, and any level of literacy. It is easily translated into any language.

Peace Through Fiction directions
  1. Read a novel
  2. Think about the Peace Through Fiction questions and answer them by yourself (journaling about your answers), or in a dialogue with a reading group or in the classroom.
Peace Through Fiction questions

POSITIVES: Which character did you like best and why? How does that character remind you of a person you like; of yourself; and of a person you dislike?

NEGATIVES: Which character did you dislike most and why? How does that character remind you of a person you dislike; of yourself; and of a person you like?

WORLD VIEWS: Which character reminds you of someone famous who interests you? In what subject is this real-life person involved?  Regarding that subject, what could you personally do to increase peace within yourself, and between yourself and other people?

Click here to get the 1-page handout.

Peace Through Fiction® is available for noncommercial use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Click here for details.

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in March 2015.

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If a Story Is In You: A Writer’s Dream by Nicole Eva Fraser

faulkner yellow if a story is in you it has to come outI started writing as a kid and my dream was always to be a published writer. When I was 10, I wrote a 50-page book called Night of Wonder about a girl who time-traveled in her sleep.

After I dropped out of college, I was a busy working mom with small children, so I wrote at night when my kids were sleeping—a screenplay and a 300-page novel. At the time, nobody in publishing was interested in my work. I threw the screenplay and novel away. But my dream lived on.

When my kids were older, I went back to college at night to study writing. I had some great professors, learned a lot, won the college writing award, and started on a new novel. I thought I was all set.

So I went to writers’ conferences to meet the New York agents and editors. But to them, I was a nobody, a zero from Cleveland. My stories didn’t matter and the industry bigwigs didn’t even want to hear them.

Helping other people helped me stay positive. I got active as an adult-literacy volunteer. As I taught my students to read and write, they inspired me with their life stories of strength and their dreams of better things ahead.

I started ghostwriting for friends. I developed the creative reading method Peace Through Fiction, and led PTF story-sharing sessions around the country. I helped bring StoryCorps to Cleveland to record the stories of students, founders, staff, and tutors at Project Learn, the adult-literacy organization where I served.

Successful in my day job, I accrued over 20 years of full-time editorial experience as a writer and senior creative consultant in a major corporate writing studio. I won awards for my creativity and innovation. But all my successes were linked to the corporation.

I just couldn’t let go of my personal dream, my passion, my drive to be a published writer in my own right, telling the stories I wanted the world to hear.

So when my employer offered tuition reimbursement for graduate school, I got into a master of fine arts program for creative writing. I knew the program would make me a better writer and consultant; I hoped it might help me make some publishing contacts, too.

Eventually, things worked out. A professor recommended me to his publisher—Second Wind. They published my first novel in 2013, and my second novel is coming in March 2015.

At last I had arrived! I’d proven myself, beaten the publishing odds, and become an industry insider. The future was in my hands. Success!

But people kept asking me things like “Is your book a bestseller yet? Are you famous now?” And since my answers were no, I started to wonder if I’d failed.

Then I thought about the readers who have written to thank me ever since my first novel got published. My writing covers a lot of sensitive topics and it helps these readers feel understood and less alone.

Hearing from my readers made me realize something. My dream to be a published writer wasn’t ever about making money or getting famous. It was always about the fact that our stories matter, and it’s important to share them.

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in March 2015.

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I Was an Unwed Welfare Mother by Nicole Eva Fraser

1983 Edited N and CSome names have been changed for this essay, and some settings are composites.

In the summer of 1981, just after turning 22, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy and named him Caleb.

I was not married, and the man who had fathered my child was permanently out of the picture.

My divorced parents both shunned me for being an unwed mother in an era when it was still unspeakably shameful. Both my parents were toxic in any case; my friends were my family.

But my friends were in no position to help me. Emotionally compromised by post-traumatic stress, I was a college dropout and had barely been supporting myself as a minimum-wage secretary, living in two rooms off an alley behind a hardware store. I had zero prospects in the city where I was living. Then a faraway acquaintance invited Caleb and me to stay with her till I found a job and got on my feet. So I headed cross-country with my six-week-old son, two suitcases, the $150 I had to my name—and a purpose.

Like my parents, society shunned me—but I didn’t care because I knew in my heart that Caleb was my manna from heaven. Finally God had done something wonderful for me. For the very first time, my being alive in this world really mattered, and I needed to live and thrive so Caleb could, too. I vowed he would have a safe, healthy, happy life, and that he would know he was loved and wanted in a way I’d never been. For my sake and his, I would no longer be a victim but a victor.

Of course, any deep inner changes to my psyche would occur much slower than my conscious epiphany. Had I known what suffering and poverty lay ahead for us to conquer, I’d have felt daunted. But it wouldn’t have stopped me. Before ever laying eyes on him, I loved my beautiful child—first, for being himself and second, for being my reason to live. Becoming a mother was at once the most selfless and selfish thing I’ve ever done.

*

I didn’t plan to go on welfare—I planned to get a job. I applied for many secretarial jobs and went on some interviews, but never call a callback—probably because everywhere I went, I kept Caleb safely close to my breast in his baby carrier.

When I quickly got desperate for money, my temporary hostess said, “Why not go on welfare for a while? Look, you’ve been a taxpayer and you will be again. Welfare wouldn’t be forever.”

Her words made sense. So I took her suggestion and signed up for welfare, found a cheap three-room apartment in an old, cold building, and moved there with Caleb. He had a little crib; my acquaintance gave me an old couch, a lamp, and a mattress; that was the sum of our furniture. And so began our new life on government assistance.

I’m grateful for welfare because it provided the bare minimum of cash, food stamps, and medical care to sustain Caleb and me for a time. And that was all it provided: the bare minimum. But welfare supported us financially during a period of extreme trauma and deprivation when I had no one to turn to; and as bad as it was, we still fared better than if I’d worked at the kind of low-pay, no-benefits job for which I was then qualified.

On welfare, I received just enough money for rent and sparing utility use, plus a tight allotment of food stamps, and free medical care at the subpar welfare clinic, where wait times typically ran half a day.

At a minimum-wage job, I would have had virtually nothing left after paying for childcare, and could not have afforded medical care for Caleb or myself. In other words, my baby and I would have ended up sick and on the streets. I wasn’t a parasite milking the system; I was a mother supporting my baby in the best way I could find at the time.

Welfare allowed for one luxury: time with Caleb. We were always together. Sun, rain, or snow, with Caleb safely close to me in his baby carrier, we walked to the library, the laundromat, the park, the neighborhood grocery with the kindly clerks (God bless you all), the Goodwill store for our clothes and shoes. At home, I read to Caleb, sang to him, talked to him. At night I pulled my mattress next to his crib and slept sentry beside him.

Caleb didn’t know that we had very little furniture, few toys, and no social status whatsoever. But he knew how wanted and loved he was.

My saving graces through those times were a few of my longtime friends and my unyielding determination that I would give Caleb a safe, happy, healthy life. I had a certainty that everything would eventually work out for the best, although I had no idea how that would come about. I felt ashamed of being on welfare but trapped by the fact that working at a job I qualified for would be worse.

For inspiration, I copied this Victor Hugo quote from a library book and taped it to my kitchen wall:

Be like the bird
who
pausing in his flight
on limb too slight
feels it give way beneath him
yet sings
knowing he has wings

*

“Welfare as we know it” has changed since those years, but one thing has not changed: to be on welfare marks you as the dregs of society.

The inconvenient truth is that U.S. citizens of the middle and, in particular, the upper classes have been quietly benefiting from un-stigmatized government assistance since America’s inception, in everything from tax loopholes to agribusiness subsidies to infrastructure developments, ad infinitum. Poor families reap far fewer benefits, yet the help they do receive carries the stink of an undeserved handout.

Some people, like me, use welfare during a time of personal crisis and then move on. But others may rely on different kinds of government assistance for a lifetime without ever being productive members of society. I have no way of knowing what has brought a given mother to welfare, or what keeps her there. But I do know that nobody lives on government assistance for the fun of it. People stay on it because they don’t know what else to do.

Today, providing my tax dollars for welfare to help feed and shelter my less-fortunate fellow citizens is the least I can do to help—and it’s not much. If only there were real help for the deeper problems, like the ingrained feelings of shame and alienation that can keep poor families plodding on a hopeless treadmill for generations.

Most people will never face the kind of personal and financial desperation that puts them on the outskirts of society—and for that, they should count themselves lucky. But life being what it is, most people will face some humbling, equalizing moment to remind them that there but for the grace of God, they might have gone (and perhaps still might).

*

Eventually I did get a permanent job, and Caleb and I were able to leave welfare behind—although leaving poverty behind took far longer.

As successful as the outer trappings of my life have grown, I can still feel the crimson humiliation of being an unwed welfare mother. Over thirty years later, I’ve never fully shaken that silent shame of the welfare life—but I’m glad the system was there to help me when I needed it.

Without friends, fortitude, and a little luck, government assistance alone would never be enough to save your life. But it should be there to ensure you don’t lose it altogether.

Caleb has no conscious recollection of our welfare days. He lives a safe, happy, and healthy life. He is forever my manna from heaven, heart of my heart, soul of my soul. And there are no words deep or high or wide enough to express the thanksgiving I feel for him.

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in March 2015.

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Reunion: My First Trip to Dar Es Salaam (Part 3) by Nicole Eva Fraser

Bashir, wanume wawili (2 men) of kanga shop, and mzungu(me!)

Bashir, wanume wawili (2 men) of kanga shop, and mzungu (me!)

Previously ~
Part 1: Beginnings
Part 2: Preparing

 

Today ~ 

Part 3: Arriving and exploring

 

 

I flew to Tanzania on Emirates Airlines—7,000 miles from New York to Abu Dhabi (about 14 hours), then 2,400 miles to Dar Es Salaam (5 hours), and landed at Mwalimu Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar.

Dar Es Salaam Airport

Dar Es Salaam Airport

Here in Tanzania, Kiswahili is the national language and English is not widely known outside academic settings or businesses catering to or established by English-speakers (usually expats from Europe).

It was my first time being immersed in a city and country where I didn’t speak, read, or write the language. As a literacy activist, this was an experience I sought out and very much wanted to have. I wanted to be forced to rely on my wits and the help of others to navigate daily life because I lacked basic literacy skills.

After passing through Immigration, I got my bags and went outside, where Mr. Iddi (the taxi driver assigned to me by Palm Beach Hotel manager) was waiting for me with a sign bearing my name. Accompanying Mr. Iddi was a young man named Bashir, who worked in the hotel.

Mr. Iddi spoke as much English as I spoke Kiswahili: very little! That was precisely why he’d gotten permission for Bashir to accompany him. I was quite in awe of Bashir’s fluency in four languages—English, Arabic, Kiswahili, and Chewa (national language of Malawi)—and many regional dialects.

Mr. Iddi and Bashir

Mr. Iddi and Bashir

I felt immediate kinship with them—but had no other inkling of how I would come to depend on Mr. Iddi as a wise protector, and how I would feel a deep mother-son bond with Bashir, keeping us connected ever after.

We drove in convivial fashion to the Palm Beach Hotel, listening to bongo flava music on the taxi radio, as Bashir engaged me in a political discussion far more informed and intelligent than most such conversations I had at home in the U.S.!  He also had the natural gifts of an interpreter, easily translating our exchanges into Kiswahili for Mr. Iddi, and Iddi’s responses back to me, so the conversation was truly three-way inclusive. He also spoke with a great energy and enthusiasm for life that kindled my own.

Because the literacy conference would not begin until the following week, I had time for exploring the city, and had planned some destinations to visit. And so, the next day, Mr. Iddi and Bashir took me to Kariakoo Market, described as “the largest and most chaotic market in Tanzania.”

The local people shop at Kariakoo and I wanted to have that genuine experience. It wouldn’t have been possible for me without Mr. Iddi’s mastery of the city and Bashir’s multilingual gifts. Throughout our day at Kariakoo, I accompanied Mr. Iddi through the mazes of the market, feeling confident as he watched over me with his regal bearing.

And both of us relied on Bashir, who effortlessly spoke to everyone no matter what the language. At one unforgettable juncture, we were standing in a circle with merchants who spoke only Arabic, Mr. Iddi who spoke only Kiswahili and I who spoke only English—and thanks to the skill and heart of our interpreter Bashir, we all shared a wonderful conversation!

Please take the time to watch this 4-minute video; it’s a priceless window into Kariakoo Market. It includes subtitled interviews with longtime merchants and gives you a vivid, albeit quick, sense of the people and the place.

Here are a few photos from my day at Kariakoo:

Fruits and vegetables for sale at Kariakoo

Fruits and vegetables for sale at Kariakoo

Mr. Iddi and Bashir - unique Kariakoo Market structure in background

Mr. Iddi and Bashir – unique Kariakoo Market structure in background

Sign on Kariakoo building

Sign on Kariakoo building

Street scene outside Kariakoo - store sign says Home of Spices

Street scene outside Kariakoo – store sign says Home of Spices

 

One of my hopes in visiting Kariakoo Market was finding kangas, which are colorful, sarong-like pieces of cloth with Swahili sayings along the bottom. We found a great shop where I purchased many kangas to bring home.

Shop where I bought kangas

Shop where I bought kangas

The shop owner took kangas down from the line with a hook. We unfolded them and Bashir would translate the sayings for me—which is how I decided which ones to buy! A few highlights:

Amri ya mungu huyatia macho nuru (God’s rule attracts light into the eye)

Mungu ibariki familia yangu (God bless my family)

Chongeni fenicha msichonge maneno (Just point at the appearance, not the words—or, actions speak louder than words)

Here’s an example of how kangas are sewn to make outfits—this is Shani, a colleague I later met at the literacy conference:

Shani of Tanzania in kanga of African leaders

Shani of Tanzania in kanga of African leaders

Shani with shoulder wrap part of kanga - Day 1

Back to my adventures with Bashir and Mr. Iddi. We also visited beaches—Slipway and Coco Beach—so I could dip my toes into the waters of the Indian Ocean for the first time! Dar Es Salaam is blessed with a refreshing wind, but the city is located at 6 degrees South latitude and I was shocked by the heat of the equatorial sun whenever I was out of the wind (for instance, on the tarmac in the Coco Beach parking lot).

Bashir and me at Slipway

Bashir and me at Slipway

Mr. Iddi and Bashir at Slipway

At Coco Beach, looking toward the city

Coco Beach looking toward the city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On other days and evenings, the three of us (Mr. Iddi, Bashir, and I) enjoyed good times at Soma Book Cafe.

On one visit I met Edna, a librarian about my age, who worked at Soma. Our backgrounds were very different (she had been born and raised in the mountains of Tanzania) but as Edna and I talked, we were delighted and amazed to discover how much we had in common—as women, as mothers of young adult children, as literacy activists, as avid readers. Edna had even lived in Cleveland for a year during her college exchange program, when I also lived there.

What were the astronomical chances of our meeting? To paraphrase Casablanca, “Of all the bookstores, in all the towns, in all the world, I walked into hers.” 🙂 I had no clue that our simple bond of friendship would unite Edna and me like sisters across 10,000 miles in the years to come.

Here are a few pictures taken at Soma Book Cafe (I don’t have a photo of Edna and me).

Soma courtyard with students

Soma courtyard with students

Soma Book Cafe entrance with music

Soma Book Cafe entrance with music

 

Poetry circle inside Soma

Poetry circle inside Soma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soma bookstore where Edna and I met

Soma bookstore where Edna and I met

Bashir and Mr. Iddi called each other brothers, so one afternoon in the taxi together, I asked about their family. As it turns out, they are brothers of the heart rather than the blood; but to them it is the same.

Bashir was born in rural Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the entire world. His mother died when he was very young, and he helped his father and relatives farming the maize which was their primary, and often only, food. Because Bashir was so intelligent, he was seen as a hope for the extended family, and they pooled their meager resources to send him to school in the nearest city.

Bashir excelled in his studies and became multilingual as part of his education. However, after graduating from the equivalent of high school, he still could not find work in the city as he’d hoped, due to Malawi’s extreme economic problems which were exacerbated by government instability.

Bashir came up with a different plan to help his family, and went home to tell his father. He had decided to take a bus over a thousand miles to the huge city of Dar Es Salaam, in the more prosperous country of Tanzania, to find work. As soon as he could, he would start sending money home to his family. With great reluctance, his father let him go.

And so this brave young man set out on the grueling thousand-mile bus trip and arrived at the Dar Es Salaam bus terminal at night, with no friends, no money, and no idea where to start looking for a job or even a place to sleep.

Thanks to Almighty God, Mr. Iddi was waiting at the bus terminal that night, looking for taxi passengers.

And out of that crowd of people, Bashir and Mr. Iddi found each other—perhaps sensing a kindred spirit in each other—and began talking in Kiswahili. Bashir told Iddi his story.

Iddi said, “I have a wife and two young children. We all want to learn English. You can stay in our house in return for teaching us English.”

And thus two brothers were born.

Next: Attending the Pan African Reading For All Conference

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Shape-Changers in “I Don’t Think It’s That Simple” by Nicole Eva Fraser

"I Don't Think It's That Simple" is forthcoming in February 2015 from Second Wind Publishing

“I Don’t Think It’s That Simple” is forthcoming in February 2015 from Second Wind Publishing

“The six worlds are a universe of Shape-Changers. Micmac stories emphasize this over and over…

 

The tricky thing about Shape-Changers
is that not only do they change their forms,
they also change their minds.

 

Thus in stories there are no Good Persons, the Heroes; there are no Bad Persons, eternally Villains…”

 

Ruth Holmes Whitehead, Stories from the Six Worlds: Micmac Legends

 

The most fascinating, relatable, and authentic characters are Shape-Changers: the ones who sometimes are Good Persons and sometimes Bad Persons—just like you and me.

My Micmac Indian ancestors knew this truth about human nature. They populated their myths and legends with Shape-Changers who may flip from Villain to Hero just when you’ve pigeonholed them, when you think you’ve got them figured out. The Micmac stories are mirrors for us all.

In I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming from Second Wind in February 2015, the Shape-Changing characters are my deliberate choice, as well as the reflection of my Micmac heritage. See what you think in this sneak peek.

Here’s the book description for I Don’t Think It’s That Simple:

Do you think Evan Leighton is a stalker—or a good guy looking for love in all the wrong places? And how about Julia Atwater—is she an innocent flirt or a shameless manipulator? The one sure thing is that they both love Julia’s teenage son Hunter—then a surreal accident changes the course of all their futures. Evan and Julia may touch your heart, they may frustrate or infuriate you, but you’re guaranteed to recognize someone you care about—even yourself—in their story.

 …and this is the opening scene:

I was standing alone at my kitchen sink with a bottle of Heineken and my thoughts and my view of the Indiana sky, remembering the story, silently, for myself.

The very first thing was Hunter saying, “Here’s my house—yeah, this one. Thanks for the ride, Coach.” Then he jumped out of my silver ’72 Corvette and started walking up the driveway, bouncing his basketball. I watched him go: long seventeen-year-old legs, neck burned brown on summer courts, his confidence unpretentious. Reminds me of me.

Hunter had played basketball for me two years already, starting as a freshman. Now he was a junior and I had him in AP English, too.

I had just turned forty-one. In my years of teaching and coaching I’d met thousands of kids, many of them exceptional, but Hunter was more than just a good kid—he was a missing piece, a missing person, he was history that had long ago slipped through my fingers but was now, somehow, restored.

“Hey, I should meet your mom and dad finally—gotta start talking about college! Tell them we should set something up,” I called from the car, top down for the warm afternoon.

“Okay,” Hunter called back, and disappeared behind the house.

It was late September and sunny. It was Indian summer and a few leaves were falling, some withered brown, some crimson and orange, falling around my car as I drove away, dreams that had fallen from grace, catching the hope of an updraft briefly, then falling back to earth, drifting, sailing, falling back to earth.

The suburban rush-hour roads were humming with traffic. At some point I glanced over my shoulder to change lanes and saw that Hunter had forgotten his book bag behind the seat. Kid’s got basketball on his mind. Nothing wrong with that. I slowed down, turned around on a side street. Hope I can find his house again. I was in no hurry to get home to dinner for one, quiet hanging in the air, English compositions to grade, phone calls and basketball game tapes to fill the empty spaces.

I parked in Hunter’s driveway and reached around for the book bag. Whoa, tonnage here. The bag was half unzipped and I looked inside. Trigonometry, physics, history, the latest Sports Illustrated, a smashed bag of potato chips.

Reminds me of me.

I zipped the book bag shut and carried it up the stone path to Hunter’s front door. Big brick house, lots of flowers in the garden. Heard muffled rock and roll coming from inside.

I rang the doorbell but nobody came. Looking through the window in the front door, I saw flowers in a vase on a table, pictures in frames dotting a tall bookshelf, and a big brown mutt asleep on a rug—not much of a watchdog. So I backtracked along the stone path and headed up the driveway, book bag slung on my shoulder.

Around back, muffled music, louder, was drifting out from a window upstairs. First I thought about knocking on the screen door. Then I took a few steps backward in the driveway and looked up toward the window.

“Hey, Hunter!” I shouted. “Hey, Hunter, it’s Coach Leighton! You left your book bag in my car—here it is!”

I remembered the first time I heard her voice, voice like rain and sunlight: “I don’t think he can hear you,” I heard this voice say. I turned around and saw a tree house in a big old oak. The branches waved and rustled, and the tree house swayed.

“Hello?” I said.

Then the voice of rain and sunlight swung down from the tree.

She was dark blonde hair, dark eyes, ponytail, swimsuit top, tiny cutoffs colored like a piece of sky. She said, “I’m Julia. Hunter’s mom.” That was when I understood everything that had ever happened to me and when almost none of it mattered anymore. Forget bad karma, unanswered prayers, a silent waiting room in a stainless steel clinic. Forget solitude, cold winters, empty promises, empty soul. Forget summa cum laude, teacher of the year, state championship trophies, glory.

“I’m Evan Leighton,” I said, somehow.

“Evan,” Julia said. She lifted one hand to fiddle with her earring, and a ray of sun lit up her wedding band, bounced off the ring and hit my heart like lightning—but even then I knew that wouldn’t stop me.

 

“Reunion: Return to Dar Es Salaam” returns in November with Part 3: Arriving and Exploring.

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in February 2015. Her current project is Quotable Women

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Reunion: My First Trip to Dar Es Salaam (Part 2) by Nicole Eva Fraser

2810185-The-Msasani-Peninsula-in-Dar-es-Salaam-0

Part 1: Beginnings (5 August 2014)

 

Part 2: Preparing

As soon as I felt that magnetic force pulling me toward Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, I prepared and submitted my paper to the Organizing Committee for the 6th Pan African Reading For All Conference.

When I received word that my paper had been accepted for the conference, I was deliriously happy! I felt as if Dar Es Salaam itself was calling me home, whispering, “Yes, yes, you belong here.”

Here is the abstract of my conference paper:

21555-AT-C-1Peace Through Fiction: The Field Guide: Exploring a Novel Way to Change the World.”

My paper examines the worldview that readers can achieve peace through fiction, and presents the first dialogue method that can be used with any novel, in any setting, as a way to increase personal and interpersonal peace.

For my presentation at the 6th Pan African Reading For All Conference, I illustrate the Peace Through Fiction method using the great African novel The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Three ideas support the Peace Through Fiction worldview:

(1) we hunger for stories—to hear other people’s and share our own—but need new ways to experience them;

(2) we want to share true dialogue, but need to know how; and

(3) we feel ambivalent about peace, or disagree on its meaning, and need new starting points.

Anyone may use the Peace Through Fiction dialogue method to discuss any novel for real-life benefits.  Readers share dialogue about positives, negatives, and world views, using any novel’s characters as starting points. Characters help readers recall stories of their own experiences; then readers reflect and develop new, more peaceful ways of being in the world.

Peace Through Fiction’s key qualities enhance its usefulness and relevance:

(1) the Peace Through Fiction method is universal: it taps into human desires for self-understanding, learning, and interpersonal connections;

(2) it is international: it works in any country or culture; and

(3) it meets readers where they are: it works for all ages, life stages, education levels, beliefs, and values.

Street scene near Kariakoo Market

Street scene near Kariakoo Market

Next I plunged into getting to know Dar Es Salaam and making arrangements for my travel.

Every day I went online to read the city’s newspapers, the Daily News and The Citizen. I studied elementary Kiswahili, the mother tongue and national language of Tanzania.

As I researched the city’s history and current culture, I was struck by its citizens’ diversity and tolerance, and its politically secular, peaceful society. The people of Dar Es Salaam practice Christianity, Islam, and traditional beliefs in equal measure; Hinduism is also practiced.

The longstanding peace of Dar Es Salaam beautifully reflected the goals of my passion project, Peace Through Fiction—another reason I felt naturally connected to the city.

Next I familiarized myself with the venue for the conference, the University of Dar Es Salaam.

University of Dar Es Salaam, Nkrumah Hall

University of Dar Es Salaam, Nkrumah Hall

From the list of acceptable hotels provided by the Organizing Committee, I chose to stay at the Palm Beach (“the name may be deceiving, as the hotel is not on the beach”). The Palm Beach Hotel provided modest lodgings in the city center. I wanted to avoid the more rarefied hotels near the University, committed to participating in normal daily life with citizens of the city.

For example, tap water in Dar Es Salaam is unusable, not only for drinking but also tooth-brushing, hand-washing, and fruit rinsing; it must be boiled to be safe. Bottled water is available for purchase, but is expensive. When showering, one must avoid getting water in nose, mouth, or eyes. I wanted that inconvenience to be part of my daily life. (The higher-priced hotels had their own purified water systems for guests.)

palm-beach-hotel-frontsm

Palm Beach Hotel, Dar Es Salaam

As I corresponded with the Palm Beach Hotel’s manager Eric about my plans, we had this exchange, which led to a meeting with destiny.

Dear Eric,

In addition to airport pick-up, I will be going to the university for five days, Monday 10 Aug through Friday 14 Aug, and will need to get a taxi ride both ways each day. The times will be a little different from day to day.

For me, it would be great to have one driver to depend on for the whole week. Could you see if it’s possible for the gentleman you know to do so?


Dear Nicole,

I will arrange the driver for you — his name is Iddi.

soma-cafe

Soma Book Cafe

Continuing my research, I also happened upon the mention of a small bookstore called Soma Book Café, which I felt definitively drawn to visit on my trip; I wrote the address in my notebook.

Then I began contacting Tanzanian journalists in and around Dar Es Salaam in hopes of meeting them in person when I arrived in the city, and to encourage them to cover the conference as press. Two journalists in particular became mentors and conference supporters in ways that transformed the outcomes for me and others who attended.

 

y-kimaro

Young Kimaro

Young Kimaro was a columnist for the Dar Es Salaam newspaper Daily News, which is how I found her. Young is a political scientist and economist by training and a literacy activist by avocation. Our first email exchange was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day.

Hello, Ms. Kimaro,

I’m writing to you from the U.S. to thank you for the excellent article in the 27 June 2009 edition of the Daily News in Dar Es Salaam.

Your article, including your proposal for “science stimulus packages” for Tanzania’s secondary schools, was of tremendous interest to me.

Will you be attending the Reading For All Conference? It will take place at the University of Dar Es Salaam 10-14 August. If you’re not currently registered for the conference but are interested, please click on “Conference Details” under “Recommended Links” on the conference blog: http://6thpanafricanrfa.blogspot.com

I’ll be presenting a paper and workshop at the conference and will be in Dar from 8-15 August. It would be a great pleasure to meet you in person.

I hope to hear from you! Many thanks for your clear vision for science education in Tanzania.

Appreciatively,
Nicole


Hello Ms. Fraser,

Thank you very much for your kind words about my article and for giving it a broad exposure that it would not otherwise have had.

I am very concerned, as are many fellow citizens of TZ, about the spending habits the country has gotten into. With so much easy money flowing through foreign aid, we have lost sense of perspective in our spending habits. The Ministry of Education’s proposal for science labs is one such alarming example.

No, I have not registered for the Reading for All Conference and thank you for sending me the website link to register. I would have loved to attend and to have met you. Unfortunately, I am crossing the Atlantic in the opposite direction next week to spend an extended time with my children and a grandchild, to be what I love to be most — a grandmother — for a change.

Being an opinionated columnist that I am, I do have some strong views about reading, if I can dig it up from my archives. If you would be interested, please let me know.

I would love to hear more about yourself, what you do and what your connection is to Tanzania. Please do write when you have time.

Cheers,
Young Kimaro

ndesanjo-in-india

Ndesanjo Macha

Another mentor who made a transformative difference in my trip was Ndesanjo Macha, a blogger, journalist, lawyer, digital activist, and new media consultant, and Editor for Sub-Saharan Africa at Global Voices. Our first email exchange was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Dear Mr. Macha,

Today I discovered your writing at Global Voices Online, where I was reading news of Dar Es Salaam and Tanzania. Your work impresses me tremendously. I share your interest “in finding ways to amplify voices from non-English speaking parts of the world. Global voices, I believe, ought to be multicultural and multilingual.”

In August, I’ll travel from the U.S. to Dar for the 6th Pan African Reading For All Conference, which will be held at the University. The conference will be conducted in English, Kiswahili (which I’m studying), and French.

If you’re interested in attending the conference as press, I’d be very happy to give you the contact info for Ms. Pilli Dumea in Dar, who is leading the conference.

Also, if you’re going to be in Dar between August 9 – 15, it would be really great to meet you in person.

Hope to hear from you!

With gratitude for your good work in the world ~ Nicole


Habari Nicole?

Nafurahi kupokea ujumbe wako!

Great to hear from you and about the conference, which I did not know about. Is there anything online about it? Ok, I will google it -)

I am in Southern Africa (now in Zambia, going to Malawi and probably Zimbabwe). This conference sounds very interesting. I don’t have anything on my calendar on those dates. I will see. I might get to Dar for this. I haven’t been in Dar for many years…I think 8 years! When I go to Tanzania I don’t usually go to Dar. I go to Moshi and Arusha. Dar is too big, too hot, too fast for me!

Which other parts of Africa are you going to visit or you will only be in Tanzania?

Since you are learning Swahili, are you aware of our Swahili Wikipedia (which is the largest wikipedia in an african language?)

You may also watch the documentary that I took part in called Truth According to Wikipedia (google it, it will come up).

By the way, are you on twitter?

Looking forward to hearing from you again.
peace,
ndesanjo

judith 2

Judith Baker

The third mentor who changed the course and ultimate outcome of my trip was Judith Baker, the educational activist who helped steer the conference’s Organizing Committee from the U.S.

Judith is the Literacy Consultant to the African Storybook Project, which she helped found, and a lifelong teacher—first as a secondary teacher and basketball coach in the Boston Public Schools for 34 years, and as a volunteer working in Africa to support local teachers in a variety of ways.

I took a special trip to Boston to meet with Judith before the conference. She offered guidance to help me make the most of my upcoming time in Africa, and asked me to start and maintain a blog for the conference. (Blogging was a new endeavor for me in 2009, and one in which Ndesanjo provided priceless support.)

Ultimately, one thing Judith said made all the difference.

She told me, “When you go to Africa, you will be overwhelmed by the suffering and the need of the millions of people. You may try to help too many people and in doing so, you will help no one. Instead, go to Dar Es Salaam with the goal of making a strong connection with one person—one person you can mentor, one person you will stay in touch with after the conference and help in the years to come. If you make one strong connection with one person in Africa—that is how you change the lives of many.”

Judith’s advice made instant sense to me, and I promised to follow it. Little did I know that focusing on “making a strong connection with one person” would lead me home to a long-lost son of my heart.

Next month: Arriving

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in February 2015. Her current project is Quotable Women.  

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Reunion: My First Trip to Dar Es Salaam (Part 1) by Nicole Eva Fraser

00 Salvation busDid you ever travel to a foreign or faraway place and find yourself feeling, improbably, at home?

I’m not talking about déjà vu, but reunion—with streets you somehow recognize, light that lifts your energy, a language that’s music to your ears, and people your heart seems to remember: a dear cousin, a wise friend, a long-lost beloved son. 

To my astonishment, reunion is what happened to me in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. And this is the story.

Beginnings

As an adult-literacy activist, I’m always looking to discover new strategies that benefit the unique needs of adults learning to read and write.

That’s why I joined the International Reading Association. The IRA is the world’s leading organization of literacy professionals, with the mission “to improve reading instruction, facilitate dialogue about research on reading, and encourage the habit of reading.”

The IRA’s great resources enriched my ability to help others at Project Learn, Cleveland, Ohio’s largest organization for adult literacy (and the only one that teaches basic skills for adults who cannot read or write at all).

My adult-literacy activism also got me interested in bibliotherapy—and inspired me to develop Peace Through Fiction, the creative reading method that uses stories for personal healing and community building.

The IRA even has a special interest group called Bibliotherapy and Reading, an open forum for members like me to share “the various strategies and techniques for using this approach.”

All that explains why, one December evening in 2008, I was deeply engrossed in reading every word of the newest issue of the IRA newsletter.

And this paragraph caught my eye:

02 Intro paragraph for Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had no idea why the city name “Dar Es Salaam” magnetized me as if I were reading the name of my long-lost home.

I continued reading, and learned that…

03 IRA in Africa - history

 

 

 

 

 

…which was interesting, certainly, but nothing to do with my adult-literacy work in urban Cleveland here in the Rust Belt.

Then I read this sentence:

04 Tanzanian organizers welcome internationals

 

 

 

 

I reread that sentence. Stared at it.

I was always looking to learn new methods and strategies—and I had a lot of good resources I could share. What if I went to Dar Es Salaam?

Then I told myself, “There’s no need to go traipsing across the planet to Africa. I should stay home and help fix what’s wrong right here in Cleveland. Just finish reading this article and go load the dishwasher.”

So I read on.

05 Hoped-for conference outcomes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and most simply and importantly…
06 most important outcome

 

 

My heart throbbed in agreement: yes, real-time benefits to our students—the universal hoped-for outcome, the goal that unites all literacy workers no matter where we are in the world.

I knew how easily my literacy resources could be applied in African settings—they were designed for that kind of ease. And it occurred to me that I had access to materials and methods my African counterparts did not.

Then I wondered what my African counterparts knew that I did not. What information and inspiration did they have access to, ideas I could bring home to Cleveland?

And as I reread the article from start to finish, these three thoughts unfolded in my head:

I could do that.

I should do that. 

I will do that.

And that was the beginning of my reunion with Dar Es Salaam, and with the African people I now call family.

Coming in August: Part 2 – Preparing

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in Fall 2014. She is developing two new nonfiction projects.

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