Frank Sesno on Asking Questions Well
On Thursday evening last week I was at the Westport Library for “The Community Table: Frank Sesno and the Power of Questions.”
I was a facilitator for one small group of eight. My direction for the group was, “In this conversation, think about why civil conversation is important, and what are some of big picture goals for nurturing it in our community.”
- Don’t worry about asking the right question, just be present and listen.
- Show respectful acceptance; be open but willing to disagree without confronting
- Use questions like, “I’m curious what you think about . . . “
- Avoid putting people on the defensive
- Give people time to think; don’t press for speedy response.
I tried hard to engage everyone and almost succeeded.
Frank Sesno gave an engaging presentation. He told stories about why he wrote the book and how. I bought it and started reading. It’s entertaining, as he was.
Title for My Second Book?
I have nearly finished editing my second book. I had two major tasks from beta readers’ comments. First was to make the chapters hang together so there is a direction, even though it is not a single story. Second, be explicit about what I want people to take from reading it.
I have tried to do these. Now I need to decide on a title. I need your advice.
In the introduction, I explain my goal.
“Nigeria gave me a sense of belonging that I had not felt growing up. When I speak about my memoir and about Nigeria, my audience always comments on my visible love for the country and its people. And they ask, “Is there anything you miss?”
“I don’t hesitate. I tell people that I miss the powerful sense of community that I came to know so well in Nigeria. I feel it most strongly when I think of my husband’s village of Nanka. When I respond to an audience member’s question and speak of the sense of belonging, of being part of an all-embracing community, people nod their heads. “We do not have that here in the same way,” they say. “That sense of community sounds wonderful.”
“Nigerians identify as a member of a tribe. My husband is Igbo. My husband’s tribe is the third largest in Nigeria. It is composed of somewhere between twenty and thirty million people. The Igbo people are the majority tribe in the southeastern part of Nigeria.
“Everyone in his village is Igbo. Our children are Igbo. I cannot ever become Igbo, though I am accepted fully in his family, clan, and village. Even though people in Western culture today may have a strong identity with their place of birth and extended family, it is different from the experience of being rooted to a place and a group of people in the way it happens in an Igbo village.
“What creates that sense of belonging in an Igbo village? How do people from Nanka know in their bones that they belong, they are part of the community, and will always be welcome and have a home?”
In my concept statement about the book, I say, “The author invites her reader to experience of the sense of belonging and being in community. Since she cannot take her reader to Nanka, she shares stories. She describes husband’s family, beginning with his parents. Using what she has learned about them and about the times, she imagines their early lives. She relates the story of their marriage, and the early life of her husband, their first son, while exploring the factors that made them know they are part of a community. Other aspects of village life that bind people together and make them know they belong to each other are explored through stories of other family members or through descriptions of experiences and customs.”
Kola nuts are mentioned frequently. Breaking kola is an important element in every Igbo ceremony. A favorite proverb often quoted when a visitor is given a kola nut to take home says: “When the kola reaches home, it will tell where it came from.” I used it at the beginning of my memoir.
What will reflect my goal and even more important, cause people to want to buy the book? Here are title contenders:
- When the Kola Nut Reaches Home: an Inside View of African Customs
- Breaking Kola: Nigeria’s Customs and Community
- Destination Nigeria: an Inside View . . .
- Inside Nigeria: The Customs and Culture That Teach Community
- My Nigeria – any of the following with any of the subtitles
- Nigerian at Heart
- Speaking of Nigeria
- Nigerian Journey
- Nigerian Identity
- Window to Nigeria
Which do you like? Do you have another suggestion?