AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT WITH NKITA ARAO
kita Arao has written two published books and Journey Through Bereavement. The Life Of A Widow is her latest publication. I have reviewed her book and it is transformational, rich and thought provoking. A book that opens your mind to the world of the widows and helps you explore a subject that is rather difficult to discuss on a whim.
The topic of death is also not one we engage in voluntarily unless we have no other option. However, one can’t help but experience the feelings she evokes when she talks about experiences widows have faced culturally, socially, economically, and mentally. Nkita Arao wittingly explores how the African woman can better prepare herself from cultural and economic shockers in such eventualities.
The book welcomes us into the lives of widows and helps us see if for the first time, how as a community we can offer our support in a respectful and humane manner. But also helps widows see themselves as more than the title, widow. But women with hopes, aspirations, dreams, gifts to share and love to give.
This captivating and thought-provoking book is about hope, love, life and death in an African context, better yet Kenyan context. I was obviously thrilled when Nkita Arao agreed to answer some questions and intrigued to hear about her writing journey.
Read on to find out more….
Why do you think having a reading culture is vital to the Kenyan community?
We seem to a larger extent a disinterested lot in reading widely. Maybe because we lacked the training in reading leisurely while young. Many of us came from very humble homes that spending money to buy a book was an unheard of luxury. I was born in the countryside and there was no such thing as a public library. Naturally we had no place to get exposed to the world beyond what we knew. There was no access to a wide variety of books to read at home.
However, the culture of handouts has become a cancer to our society. We have plenty of parents who are capable of buying books today, but they do not want to spend the money on them. We must streamline our priorities.
My plea to the parents with young children is to help them develop the culture of reading. Children learn best by watching. They watch what their parents do. Today’s parent is generally able to encourage a reading culture by either visiting a public or private library with their children. Whenever they buy a book for themselves, they too can get a book for their children. As we talk about our hobbies, reading ought to be one of them.
What in your view needs to be done and by whom to encourage a reading culture?
Reading expands our knowledge. Nelson Mandela says, Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. The power of education extends beyond the development of the skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to Nation-Building and Reconciliation.
No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated. We get to learn different ways of solving problems as we read the experiences of other people. Many times, we make terrible comments about other ethnic or racial groups. Reading diverse literature helps us learn what makes us behave the way we do. Knowledge is power. We want to be knowledgeable so that we can better tackle certain challenges that come our way. Perishing for lack of knowledge is no longer an option.
What is the one thing that has stood out for you about the publication process?
Persistence and patience. The publishing process has a way of cultivating certain virtues and disciplines in oneself. You develop an attitude of,’ let go and let God’. Meaning you do your part and let God do the rest. I have learnt to trust that God gives us the capacity to complete whatever it is we are passionate about. It takes time and money to produce a good publication. We need to be patient and committed to what we are doing.
As a Christian, I am always reminded that God has given all of us different gifts and He is not a man that He can lie. What He has put in me, He will give me the strength and the urge to do it. I also believe that even though it is expensive to publish, He promised us that He will always provide for our needs.
How long was the process for you from the time you started writing to the time you published?
I think I first started writing the book in 2009. I had a full- time job that was very demanding. Many people asked me how I found the time to write. I just squeezed in the limited time I had. I also took many projects at the same time. My advice to those who want to write is to start one project, complete it before you start the next one. This advice is good, but I find it hard to follow because ideas come at any time and I would not like to suppress them.
When did you first realize that your book had gotten some momentum with the readers?
Journey through Bereavement has had an unusual path. This is mainly because of the effects and after effects of the COVID -19 pandemic. The lockdown has caused a strain in the normal marketing of the book including the meet and greet sessions. If these were normal times, I am sure I would have had the pleasure of having discussions and going on book tours.
The best thing to me has been the positive and encouraging feedback I have received from those who have read. There is one response that I hold very dear and personal from a professor known to me and a medical doctor told me were very encouraging.
You say this is a book that every African literate should read. Why do you say so?
While I think it is important for Africans to read this book, the world at large should read it. Readers will have an Inside look of our world as Africans. Our rich and diverse culture, our hopes, our dreams, and our unrelenting efforts to become the continent of good.
We have to dissociate widowhood as a taboo. I wish to share with the readers on how to comfort anybody who is bereaved. To know what words to say. Or simply say nothing at all but just be present. Even cry along with them. Far too often, we are compelled to comment on issues we know nothing about, in the name of ‘offering comfort’. After this read, I believe we will be confident in how we comfort the bereaved.
This is a book that seeks to create awareness on the plight of widows in the community. My hope is that this book will contribute to having a better understanding of the emotional trauma the African widow exhibits after the death of their spouses and on ways to overcome them.
In your view and from your experience, how should widows be enlightened about their rights to ownership?
Organizing seminars and inviting knowledgeable people in the field is one sure way of sensitizing widows on their right to ownership.
Drawing an empowering program is high in my priority list. This would entail, coming up with guidelines on training widows on substantial financial growth mechanisms. But also to facilitate the training of widows in the Church and the society.
Lastly, I would wish to assist the widows to form support groups.
How should young women single & married be enlightened about their rights to ownership?
Be open to one another so that in case of any eventualities, the lady will have some idea of how to handle certain issues. I strongly believe that God can use both husband and wife, to provide for the home.
It is unwise to keep secrets from each other that would otherwise be used to comfort the family and save them from economic, and emotional traumas. Whoever stays behind should not suffer with the children because of hidden things which we know we will leave on this earth when He calls us to His glory.
I still maintain that education is the key for women to not be left in the dark.
If you enjoyed this Interview with Nkita Arao, stay around for more informative entertaining and engaging articles from our very own writers.