I am racist.
I think we all are racist. In this world we cannot help but be influenced by the color of our skin. Much as I love my brothers and sisters at Solid Word Bible Church where we worshipped when we lived in Indianapolis, my white skin has given me different life experiences than their black skin. I cannot help but view the world from inside my white body.
I once attended a one-day writing workshop. At the end of the day the leader asked us to visualize where we would like to be in ten-years time in our writing careers. He probably suggested a book signing as one possibility. By that time I had done at least one book signing for my first YA novel, The Wooden Ox. The desire to do writing workshops in Africa may have already been in my mind. What I remember is picturing the book signing of one of my students. Recently I have gone one better—one of my Kenyan students was short-listed for the Golden Baobab Award for African Children’s Literature.
December 1 is World AIDS Day, a time to remember the 34 million people in the world today living with HIV. Half a million have died in the US alone. More than two thirds of those living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa where I have lived for many years. For every one person with the virus in the blood steam, weakening the immune system, countless others are affected—parents, children, friends, employers, employees, whole communities loosing economic power as wage earners become too ill to work. Anti-retroviral drugs have greatly extended the lives and health of people living with HIV, but the virus still presents huge challenges.
It's here! The beautiful cover designed by Katy Popa with a painting by Kathy Haasdyk, illustrator of Our Gran. Keeping Secrets will be released December 1, World AIDS Day.
Keeping Secrets is not a book for pre-teens. Because of content involved with HIV, parents will want to read it themselves before giving it to readers under thirteen or fourteen. But then I always try to make my books for young people interesting to adults as well. Discussion questions at the end can help you talk about issues raised.
Read a sample chapter here. Then tell your friends by clicking on the buttons above and get ready for the December 1 release!
Jeanette Windle’s books just keep getting better. I reviewed her Afghanistan series in the past. Her latest, Congo Dawn, is being released this week. It's set in the former Belgian Congo, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Whether that darkness is local or colonial, Conrad leaves in doubt, and Windle picks up this theme in a thriller that will keep you up at night turning pages. The author knows Africa from the relief organizations and schools where my kids studied to the stamping of pestles and the singing of the locals. She shows African believers putting us Westerners to shame with their faith in the midst of a horrific situation. The book may be fiction, but the situation of brutal warlords and corrupt corporations grabbing what they can get at the expense of ordinary people is all too real.
My husband works for ICETE—International Council for Evangelical Theological Education—the umbrella organization for the various regional accrediting councils for theological schools. Every three years ICETE holds an international consultation of the leadership of some of the top theological training programs in the majority world. This year the consultation was in Nairobi. My husband asked me to come along to meet all the people he works with.
Nairobi is beautiful at this time of year with jacaranda and bougainvillea in bloom and the smell of fresh-cut grass. (Okay, there are other smells in other parts of the city, but at the Kenya Commercial Bank Learning Center in Karen, those are the sites and scents that predominate.)
When I went to Kenya early in October I thought we were going to be a larger group. I’ve taught writing workshops of ten to twelve people in Nairobi before. The first two were sponsored by local publishers. A third, a few months after the violence of the last elections, was at the invitation of former students. A couple of those students contacted me recently and asked, “When are you coming back?” It so happened that I needed to be in Kenya anyway, so we made plans.
Unfortunately, most of the planned participants, were unable to get off work. In the end three of us met in the garden of Africa Inland Mission’s Mayfield Guesthouse instead of a fancy conference center.
I brought home several new books from Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing a couple weeks ago. I have collected beautiful picture books since I worked in a Logos Bookstore children’s department when I was first married, long before my own kids. My children remember the antique glass cupboard with books that we looked at together, turning the pages carefully with clean hands. In recent years I have focused on books that represent Africa in a positive way.
Gabby is fleeing a disintegrating marriage after years of fertility treatments and miscarriages. Heidi and her daughter Katie are hiding the secret of teen pregnancy that has ostracized them at home. Cassandra is a no-longer-up-and-coming reporter, hoping for the big story that will rejuvenate her career. The four of them end up on a missions trip to South Africa where they meet women whose faith and passion to help others transform their lives.
Many of you know that when I am not writing at my computer or doing story times for orphans and vulnerable children at after-school programs, my favorite activity is ice skating. Believe it or not Africa has rinks in Joburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Nairobi and Cairo. There may be more, but those are the ones I know about. Addicts like me check out places on the Internet.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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