Today I am pleased to have as my guest, Marie A. Abanga, author of My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries and My Redemption. Marie and I met here on my blog when she commented on an earlier post. We began emailing and a friendship has grown. I hope you will enjoy meeting Marie today and invite you to return on September 9th for my review of her memoir.
Marie, tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am a dynamic and passionate woman, mother of three boys, lawyer, activist, mental health advocate and feminist. I am a native of Cameroon in Africa and I currently live in Brussels, Belgium. I am currently equally enrolled at the Brussels School of International Studies as an LL.M candidate for international law with international relations. In addition to my studies, I also work as the Regional Manager Africa for the Women In Parliament Global Forum. I was a pioneer community champion for the UN Women Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment, and I have been spotlighted by various feminine magazines, including Women’s Lead, the Girls Globe and the Knowledge Gateway's monthly magazine. I am fluent in English and French, both my native languages, and then I speak Pidgin English and try to understand Italian and Swahili.
In addition to my memoir, I maintain two blogs: My award-winning: http://marieabanga.com and http://myeverydaypersonal.blogspot.be/. Since coming to Belgium, I have made great strides into the social networking world. I am a regular contributor on the Divorce Magazine, a member of the Mental Health Writers' Guild and a guest blogger on a few other blogs. I love writing and I keep numerous journals including one for my first son. My future projects include a memoir of my brother's journey from a genius to a simpleton, (after 18 years with mental health conditions), due by this year end, and my second memoir due mid next year.
When did you first know you wanted to write?
I have written stuff ever since I could remember. I wrote stories of girlish fantasies and some sad tales too, modeling after the likes of Cinderella and Snow White. I think either way whatever I wrote was somehow about me and my life. Yet, it wasn't until I was about to leave my marriage, my children and my Country that I decided that were I to survive that episode or those episodes whichever came to be, I wouldn't keep that story to myself.
You have published your memoir. What was the catalyst for writing your life story?
Two reasons come to mind:
I first thought I would be publishing my thriller of a story, be lashing out at my family who would be hurt by my “washing such dirty linen in public”. Well, I did not really care about my self-image any more at some point of my life. It was already so full of inner filth and outward glamour that I just felt relief writing it all down.
Then it occurred to me I could do better with My Story. I could make My Mess My Message and I could make My Test My Testimony! Indeed, whatever our spiritual beliefs, we are taught that the great 'He/She' doesn’t love or judge the way man does and that 'They' knows it all. ‘They’ know how willing our spirits could be and yet how weak our flesh could equally be.
Share a little about the process of writing your memoir.
To be candid, what I wrote was even very powerful and embarrassing to myself. I dreaded what would have happened had my mother or someone else stumbled upon it. I dared not write on paper, and this had disadvantages. I then also didn’t know as much about various writing and social networks and resource websites for writers of my genre. I was scared and yet determined. I wrote my chapters at midnight when all were asleep or at 3 am before starting my 4 am workouts. I tried to password the file and give it a weird name. Publishing while still in Cameroon was out of the question. I actually hid that file away for almost two years until I found myself in Belgium and discovered CreateSpace. Of course, I also knew I could only use nicknames for almost all my characters.
There is no point ‘writing your memoir in hiding.’ There are lots of websites, workshops, and nice people out there prepared to help and guide or even reassure you as you embark on that ‘tedious journey.’ After ‘opening up’ and reading several other more poignant memoirs (though none from a Cameroonian author so far), I have come to realize and accept the fact that my story is not the worst ever. I have also come to benefit fully from the ‘largess’ of that ‘courageous endeavor.’ Indeed, as I keep telling people, my writing is my therapy and message and so is my memoir.
Feminism and advocacy for women are important to you as shown by the work you do. Could you tell my readers why you feel strongly about feminism?
First of all, this is how that memoir of mine is dedicated: “To all the girls and women who like myself are struggling to come to terms with themselves and their situation whichever it may be; don’t give up, look up to God or whatever it is you truly believe if we’re still alive then the Lord or who ever is our creator, is definitely not done with us yet. So Do Believe in Yourselves always and stay STRONG amidst any waves, tides or rough seas!”
Now, specific to the question on my strong feminist feelings. Simply, I advance thus: The economic 'stagnation' of women has for all time hastened their dependence on men, consequently their, 'abuse'. This impacts heavily on their own well being, and of course that of their children and hence the well being of the community as a whole. Yet, today, statistics have proven to all extent how much benefit a society reaps when its women are economically empowered. Economics aside, we see Women being abused in virtually all other areas of life. Both in the home, on the streets and where else. What can we pick out? The news is saturated with all those sad tales of rape, abuse, violations even in the name of religion. So , if my 'small voice and or actions' can contribute a widow's mite to the empowerment of women, I can not relent.
Share with us the one woman who has had the greatest impact in your life.
There are many women who have impacted my life and this is always a tough question for me to answer. But now I must choose one and this is my Mother. She by her own life, struggles, achievements and further trials, taught me both directly and indirectly, several valuable lessons of life. Her mother was also a great inspiration to her and of course to me also. I had the luck of spending a good chunk of my life with her around.
You are a strong mental health advocate. Please share the reason behind this advocacy.
I almost committed suicide once –dropped that knife at the very last minute. I have no shame in admitting that. However, I am much better now and dream of becoming a personal and emotional well-being coach. I need to be really well and sure I am on the right path and I will not sink down there again. Sometime when society holds you as doing good, they discourage you from thinking you may actually have a problem. That is my challenge right now; because of that ‘perception’ by many that l am so fine, healthy, happy and may not really need to go begging for a mental diagnosis. And this may be our challenges too – hence my advocacy.
I found some probable reasons of ‘mental illness’:
- personal genes
- biochemical environment
- personal experience and
- psychological factors.
I searched to no avail to find a single cause of a person’s temperament, or religion, or sorcery and all. I still wonder why it is so challenging to even look at the possibility of a mental disorder until almost all options are exhausted and the ‘patient’ is maybe really ‘nuts’ by then. So, the bottom line is, only ‘we’ can help ourselves. If we can face it, once we notice the symptoms, we should seek help and I mean shamelessly. I don’t think I did that forcefully enough and so I wasn’t taken serious by my mother who only thought l was ‘possessed’. That is why I advocate strongly and openly for mental health, hoping one day stigma and shame will disappear, and that a more holistic care will be made available and affordable for all.
Thank you, Marie, for joining me today and sharing so openly about yourself.
Connect with Marie here:
A COPY OF MY UNCONVENTIONAL LOVES
BOOK GIVEAWAY -- SIMPLE as 1-2-3!
Clicking on this link will take you to an entry form.
All that's needed is your name and email address.
The giveaway ends at noon on Friday, September 12th.
At that time, a winner will be selected using random.org.
The winner will be announced on this blog on Friday afternoon, September 12th.
For delivery right to your inbox of upcoming memoir reviews, writing resources and tips, plus news items related to writing and publishing, sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter by clicking on the image below: