Identities: A short story collection and it’s companion discussion guide are available on Amazon.com. The short story collection is also available at Chapters Coquitlam, Chapters Metrotown, Indigo Granville and Pangea Limited at 118 Wilkinson Road, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
It’s December. It’s been a year like most for me – with highs and lows on this roller coaster called life. But without a doubt, the launch of my short story collection has been among my 2017 highlights. This short story collection had been on my mind and heart for years, but I was unprepared for the impact it has had on me and hopefully on those of you who have read it.
I was unprepared:
- For the outpouring of support and most of all for those of you who said: “thank you for telling my story!”
- For the number of times I have now been asked to share my own deeper stories of what it means to be ‘black,’ ‘African,’ ‘immigrant,’ ‘woman,’ ‘refugee.’
- For the global Africans, who stopped by my book signing tables to tell me their stories of being asked: Where are you from? Or the mixed-race Africans/black peoples’ descriptions of being asked: What are you?
- For the white South African woman who read the book dedication and burst into tears.
- For the non-black Canadians and other multi-identity global citizens who told me how impactful it was to read stories that go beyond the usual stereotypes or one-sided renditions of identity politics and resonated with their experiences too…
I was unprepared.
But in a year when telling our stories have never been more important, when ongoing news like this leave me speechless and teary, these moment have given me life. They have been my lifeline to hope in our shared humanity. To the knowledge that no matter how bleak things look the heart of humanity still responds when we connect in meaningful ways. The conversations sparked by Identities have allowed me to practice what I have been suggesting to others:
- Start Blank. This means, resist the urge to assume others’ backgrounds based on previous knowledge, stereotypes, ethnic markers and encounters.
- Let relationship come before curiosity about difference. This means resisting the urge to open conversations by asking identity questions, but rather start with other points of interest and connection. Once there is genuine connection, dialogue about identity will naturally unfold. This is worth the price of waiting – it is a simple act that restores social equality and instills a sense of belonging to those too often called and seen as ‘different’.
Why does this matter so much you are wondering? Because the social sciences are showing that subtle, everyday ways in which we include or exclude others are just as impactful as systemic forms of creating equality or excluding others. We, humanity, need to remember that global movement is the way of the world historically and now. We must embrace each other so that we may collectively thrive. If history and today’s tragedies has taught us anything, it is that a world where there are ‘others’ always spurns further dehumanizing and results in abuse, oppression, genocides and extreme human rights abuses. We can no longer afford to co-exist this way. Today, the number of people living outside their countries of birth worldwide is estimated at 244 million people. That collective population would be the 5th largest country in the world, surpassed only by the China, India, US and Indonesia. That’s how many people need to be allowed the crucial human need of belonging.
So, to celebrate a year since the launch of Identities, I am releasing the companion discussion guide. The guide is inspired by those of you who have asked to go deeper. My hope is to encourage you – individual reader, educators and book club enthusiasts – to delve deeper into the themes that Identities provokes. This guide is meant to jump start you into further meaning-making, through your own storytelling.
For each story in the collection, this guide includes a story quote or snippet, behind the book commentary adapted from the blog series on the book, and discussion questions. However, these are just guidelines. This guide is meant to facilitate discussion and learning after reading each story. The questions are designed to promote open dialogue and not for debates on each person’s position relative to the issues and questions raised. I dedicate this guide and this storytelling journey, as I did the collection itself:
…to those who identify as African, on and off the continent…
This is also dedicated to each and every one of you who have read Identities and shared your thoughts with me directly, on social media or by posting a review. I have been so encouraged by hearing what the short study collection evoked and stimulated in you and the questions it left unanswered. This guide is intended to make room for exploring those questions
Let us tell our stories…
And in so doing, may we rehumanize our world so that we can all share this air and this space we get to temporarily occupy as equals, and may we leave it a better place for generations to come…