Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meet Robin Winter

I wrote the book to entertain, but that’s never enough, I also wanted to provoke, to inspire and incite. I lived in Nigeria, grew up there, saw the violence of coups and demonstrations, the strength of its incredibly varied peoples. Evacuated by the civil war, I saw Nigeria torn apart while I lived a safe cold exile in New Hampshire.

Time passed, I went to college and met amazing women, and had and have still their friendship. So in this novel I spin together a theme of expatriate women in friendship plunged into war, and how the things they bring from the heart of their pasts twist everything that follows in the light of day. My point is not that women are as good as men, it’s that we are as good as ourselves, and gender is incidental. So in this story, we have women with and without men. However, a man is never the meaning of any of my womens' lives.

Then there is the political aspect of a white expatriate writing about the most powerful black African nation. I hope I do this humanly. I’ve read obsessively on Nigeria, lived there, smelled and tasted it, and I have loved it. But there's no going back and Nigeria doesn't belong to me. This is one of the other themes pervading every page, the push-me pull-you adoration of a superb and vibrant land, and the inevitable parting from it. There are the conflicts of feeling a presumed superiority to native peoples, struggling with the eventual realization that those feelings are contextual and all the strength of one kind of society cannot be transposed or infused into another. There's no simple way to help, there are only human individual ways that must be rooted in humility.

I remember the Nigerian Civil War. The Biafran War. Not many Americans do. It was short, it was messy. I was an evacuee watching TV in New Hampshire, glued to those images of starving babies the newscasters warned ‘might be disturbing’, but my parents felt that they could not edit what I knew even if I was ten years old. I believe they were right, and this novel is my answer.

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