I know you will enjoy this compelling and interesting personal narrative by Ms Wheeler who generously gives you a peek into how her life's experiences have influenced her writing...........
A Slice of History
by PC Wheeler
I sometimes hear authors get asked, 'what are your influences?'. As a writer, it's important for me to analyze my own influences. After all, what you're getting when you read my work is something written through the lens of my experiences.
So, what does influence me? Well, everything!
That may seem like a pat answer, but it's true. All of the things I've been through - all my associations with people, my politics, religion, worldview - it all bleeds through one way or another. Even as a writer of fantasy, I can't escape myself.
But, there are some events in my life that have had a greater impact on me than others. As a way to show you a little bit about who I am, I wanted to give you a glimpse of one of these events. It's something I will never forget, as long as I live. To go there, however, I need to start from the beginning.
I was born in a small town in Southern Africa called Sinoia. (On a side note, as an homage to my heritage, my husband and I named our daughter Sinoia.) At that time, the country, then called Rhodesia, was going through political upheaval, which ended in civil war. The Regime of Robert Mugabe began in 1980 and by the February of 1982, my parents, unsure of the political climate and concerned for our future, relocated our small family, just the three of us, to a town in white-ruled South Africa. I was six years old.
As a child, I understood nothing of the ramifications of Apartheid. The world existed as it did, and I didn't know that it could be different. Black people lived separately to white people. Black people were house maids and gardeners while white people were family and friends. I didn't know that there was anything wrong with this. It was just the way things were.
My father was the one who taught me to think for myself and always ask questions. As I grew older, I began to question the way things were. Perhaps I did not know the extent of the injustices that were being done around me, but at some point I knew that how we lived was wrong. Fortunately, things were beginning to change in South Africa.
As the Apartheid regime began to be dismantled, South Africa was like a bomb waiting to explode. I remember watching the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 on TV. I may not have fully understood who this man was or how important he was, but something inside me lifted with hope at the sight of him. Later that year, on a school trip headed by two of my more progressive teachers, English teachers I might add, I attended a week of the Grahamstown Arts Festival - an annual celebration of the arts. That year, it was also a celebration of the newly unbanned political group, the ANC. If my parents had known of this little fact, they might never have let their fourteen-year-old daughter go on that school trip. The ANC was still considered a dangerous organization by many whites.
The week culminated in an event that I would never forget: a jazz concert. It struck me, as our small group of white students and white teachers (schools were still segregated at that time) walked into the concert hall, how non-white the rest of the audience was. I can't remember the name of the band, only that they were good. They were damn good. They had bongos and drums, and a veritable orchestra of horns and guitars, and other instruments that kept us all thumping our feet. The atmosphere in the hall was close like the air on a humid summer night, even though it was the middle of an African winter outside. The audience had a rhythm of their own as they danced and swayed to the music.
Our small group began to unwind as we let the music seep into our bones. To me it felt like the drip, drip of a thaw that had finally turned into a flood. We were no different to our fellow audience members, despite the pasty color of our skin. That night of revelations culminated in one last eye-opener. Unplanned and unscheduled, after the band had played out their final encores, they struck up with one last song: "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika". For decades the song had been the anthem of the oppressed, and here, those who were the very same oppressed raised their hands with us, and we sang together. I barely knew the words, but they came easily to my tongue: God bless Africa.
Four years later, I voted in the first democratic elections in South Africa.
If a sense of the innate equality of all people flows through my fingers as I type, or if my characters sometimes act out my belief in the spirit of triumph over tribulation, of forgiveness over retribution, then here is a big part of the reason why.
About Ms Wheeler: Priscilla Clare Wheeler was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. Her parents and grandparents instilled in her a love of reading and it was her grandfather in particular who inspired her with his gift of storytelling.
After gaining a Higher Diploma in Education from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a couple of years teaching high school Math and Science, she spent a few years traveling and living in England where she met her husband Jason Gatties. She now lives in Michigan with her husband, their daughter and two cats.
*Note: You can find Ms Wheeler blogging at Tea and Magic
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