End-of-Year Fellowship Report for 2002-03
During my fellowship at the Center for 21st Century Studies I began research on a novel about Angola. The course reduction afforded by the fellowship allowed me to immerse myself in this project, which has taken definite shape over the past year. The novel will span two centuries, encompassing the Portuguese colonial period, the 20-year violent struggle for independence, the lengthy Civil War between the National Front for the liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita)–a war exacerbated through the interference of military units fielded by South Africa, Cuba, Zaire, and SWAPO (Southwest African People’s Organization), as well as military advisors and material support from the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies–and finally the post-war chaos, desolated economy, and ruined infrastructure that have resulted from decades of bitter fighting.
The novel is set in Luanda, Baton Rouge, Lisbon, Havana, Cape Town, and Dresden, and the events depicted take place in 1798 and the present. Although this is a work of fiction, the project will draw heavily on research. To this end, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, conducted preliminary phone interviews with informants in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana, and arranged travel to Lisbon and Dresden this summer. I produced over 100 pages of research and scenes.
In addition to my work on this novel, Harvard’s international magazine, Transition, engaged me to write a non-fiction article about Angolans and Angola veterans in the United States. I have located a number of resources including Angolan, Cuban, South African, American, and East German veterans of the Angolan conflict, as well as Portuguese-Angolan immigrants. The information gathered in this article will help to inform the novel and the multiple perspectives contained therein.
Many of the issues raised in Center presentations and discussions prompted me to write and incorporate three additional chapters (approximately 50 pages) into The Raw Man, a novel set in Zimbabwe. The manuscript, now in its final stages, has been greatly enriched by my experience at the center.
In short, this fellowship has enabled me to have an extremely busy and productive year, and has been instrumental in helping me to make significant progress on two book-length manuscripts.
One chapter of The Raw Man, in short story form, was nominated and short listed for The 2003 Caine Prize in African Writing. As a short-listed candidate, I will be flown to London this summer to take part in a busy schedule which includes reading my work at the Africa Centre in London’s Covent Garden, and at the Royal Overseas League, as well as participating in a symposium at London University’s Institute of English Studies and in a colloquium for the British Council. Short-listed candidates will also meet with publishers and literary agents from Africa and the United Kingdom, and will conduct fiction writing workshops in London and/or Cape Town next year. The winner of the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing will be announced this July.
During my fellowship I also completed two short stories which I have submitted for publication (The Georgia Review solicited one of these stories and Glimmer Train has asked to see the other).
Readings and Presentations
*Fiction Reading and Narrative Craft Lecture, Southern Connecticut State University, East Haven, CT, 20-21 February.
Fiction Reading, The Cape Town Festival, Cape Town, SA, 20 March.
Fiction Reading, Universidad Del Sagrado Corazon, San Juan, PR, 4 April.
Featured Lecturer, National Writing Project Writer’s Retreat, San Juan, PR, 5-6 April.
Fiction Reading and Panel, Spring Writer’s Festival, Tallahassee, FL, 11-12 April.
Fiction Reading and Narrative Craft Lecture, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, Menasha, WI, 2 May.
*Travel Supported by Center for 21st Century Studies funds