My current memoir, Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, (published April 2014) isn’t my first attempt at memoir. I started what I thought would be a memoir twenty-two years ago. At the time, I thought I had begun to write so I could finally record all those stories I’d been telling people ever since I arrived in America from Africa. Stories that came from growing up in a small Zambian copper mining town and a sisal plantation in Zimbabwe, as well as all those road trips my family took to Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya where my larger-than-life dad always managed to wangle invitations to the most unusual places. I had plenty of material. What I didn’t know was that I’d intuitively chosen writing to explore my own personal myths in an attempt to reconcile the past.
I ended up with a 500-page unholy jumble of flashbacks. It took another eight years to “straighten” out my mess, only this time I ended up with a YA novel and sequel, Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, with two teenage protagonists. A white girl and a black boy, set in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The scope of my story had become too large, or so I believed. Or else I wasn’t ready to dig all the way into the bedrock of self.
That opportunity came when my husband of twenty-five years started disappearing for weeks at a time without explanation or apology. The marriage had been headed for the rocks for a while, but I hadn’t expected this. I had deluded myself into thinking I could fix it. Scared, hurt and angry, I started writing Loveyoubye to vent, but mainly to gain insight. To complicate matters, I had to return to South Africa to help my mentally impaired brother move from one residence to another. And then there was the dog. The love of both of our lives. She was getting worse. What to do. He became more subversive. I tried harder. We wobbled along. I wrote. Without giving away the ending of my story, I will tell you this, through searching for and finding those exact words that brought to light the deepest parts of me, I found release and power.