Identities: A short story collection is available on, Chapters Coquitlam, Chapters Metrotown, Indigo Granville and Pangea Limited, 118 Wilkinson Road, Freetown.

Photo, courtesy of Pangea Limited

Mariama sat and stared at the flickering flame of the fireplace. She was captivated by the way the flames danced and moved. It was so hard to believe that these dancing flames were not real. This electric fireplace, a veneer, just like what her life had slowly become in this place. Here in Canada, where she’d found refuge, but she feared she was losing her mind and losing herself. The flickering flames suddenly bothered her and she closed her eyes. Even then, she found no solace in the dark as her mind replayed in vivid color this day, that day, and all the other days that were all jumbled together sometimes. She opened her eyes again and tried to remember why she had come downstairs to the living room at 1:00am, while Med and the kids were sound asleep. She looked at the bottle of Tylenol 3’s in her hand, a little shocked that she was holding it because she couldn’t feel any pain anywhere. At least no physical pain. The jumbled images were still floating around her even with her eyes open. She willed herself to get up and go upstairs but couldn’t make her body move. She gave up and curled into a fetal position on the couch. She was finding out why people in pain defaulted to fetal positions. It was comfortable, this fetal place. Perhaps it was also the signal that rebirth might be possible if you stay there long enough.


What do you do when you feel overwhelmed and without support in a new context?

What do you do to cope and thrive through life changes and transitions?

How do you rebalance when the stress of everyday life threatens to consume you?

What does growth and transformation look like after significant trauma?

What does parenting look like in contexts where there is no ‘village’ to help raise children?

How do couples find their way back to each other after they have lost sight of love for a while?


Story #5 in Identities: A short story collection is about the struggle of a young African couple to adjust to life and immigration to Gambia and Canada, after the Sierra Leonean civil war. It is fundamentally a story of immigration journeys – forced and voluntary – and the toll that adjustment so often has on people. It is told through the lens of the wife’s postpartum depression experience, intentionally opening up the conversation about mental health concerns that are so often denied. In many ways, this story is inspired by my research into the growth and development experiences of immigrants and refugees despite the traumatic circumstances that often threaten to subsume them. In the journey of my research, I have interviewed so many phenomenal leaders who have gone through so much fire to “become gold” and are literally doing work to change the world. These stories of transformation, growth and development are often lost in the ‘refugee,’ ‘immigrant’ and post traumatic stress disorder narratives. Part of my own journey and storytelling continues to be to learn and share about the posttraumatic growth process, as well as the transformational possibilities available on the other side of traumatic stress.

I have found from my work and research that a fundamental bridge from trauma to transformation is stories from our own lives that remind us of our identity in such a way that propels us forward. I call these Resonance stories. Resonance stories are not always happy ones, but they are the stories that remind us of our inner purpose and meaning and energize us not to give up when we are facing traumatic stress. Back to the beginning is anchored in this idea, as Mariama’s depressive reverie takes her through a memory lane filled with Resonance stories.

Back to the beginning is also meant to remind readers of the journey of love and how life so often gets in the way of our hopes, dreams and unity if and when we let it. As the saying goes, life happens. In this story, it certainly does. The protagonists have their work cut out for them and the moral of the story is that sometimes we have to go Back to the beginning – to the time and places when we first fell in love; to the core identity question of where we have come from to make our way forward.

“Sometimes I see it as – perceive it negatively, why I had to go through all of that, but I still thank God for it because I see it like gold – the process of [becoming] gold. Whenever people see gold, it’s just like a dirty stone … it goes through fire before it becomes refined.”

From an interview with an inspiring young African leader Adam, on his posttraumatic growth journey.