Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

My Memoir

Published and Ready for You 

 

My book cover

Kindle edition book cover

Nigeria Revisited, My Life and Loves Abroad, is published and ready for you to read! It’s available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in the print edition on Barnes & Noble’s website. I published with Peace Corps Writers. The book was produced by CreateSpace, a print-on-demand company who did excellent work in the preparation and printing.

After two years and three months of delightful memoir writing workshops at Westport Writers Workshop, I finished the writing. After months of deliberating about the title, I went with the one suggested by Aline Weiller who was in my memoir class and is now my publicist!  

My story – I am an American woman who joined the Peace Corps to teach in Africa for two years and stayed for twenty-four. I met a Nigerian electrical engineer, fell in love, married, survived a war, raised three biracial children, founded an organization, and created a business, changing from naïve idealist to seasoned survivor over the two dozen years.

My wonderful and insightful teacher Marcelle Soviero also became my developmental editor. Gail Harris, a long-time friend and an established copy-editor, copy-edited it. When these two processes were done, I put all the chapters together and found that I had over 156,000 words!

I had consulted various blogs with advice about memoir. They all said a memoir by an unknown writer should be less than 100,000 words. So I went into slash and burn mode and after three months, had it down to 107,000.

I loved my original opening paragraphs where I described receiving the acceptance letter from Peace Corps during my senior year at Mount Holyoke College. Then I told about being in New York City six months later, ready to depart for Nigeria. We had one last night to celebrate. With regret I decided to remove those paragraphs and begin my memoir in Africa.

You can still read those original opening paragraphs, and tell me if you ever went to the Peppermint Lounge.

Peppermint Lounge to Tropical Rain Forest (my original chapter title)

Peppermint Lounge where I did the twist - my last night before departure in New York City 1962

Peppermint Lounge New York City 1962

My hands shook as I opened the letter from Peace Corps one early spring day in 1962.

I raced to my friends’ fourth-floor dorm room at Mount Holyoke College and burst in. “Guess what? I’m joining the Peace Corps!

“Wow! Where are you going?” Robin said as she jumped up to hug me.

“Nigeria!”

“Isn’t that in Africa?” It was Peg’s turn to give me a hug.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m going to be a teacher.”

Six months later I was in New York, and it was the evening before departure.

“What can I do that is significant enough for my last night in the United States?” I said to my friend and colleague Bob, when I found him in the lobby of the New York hotel where Peace Corps had placed us.

“Good question. Two years is a long time to be gone.”

Another couple approached. “Want to join us at the Peppermint Lounge?”

Perfect! I raced to my room and dug in my suitcase for something suitable for a night on the town. The best I could come up with was a nylon shift in the latest blue and yellow geometric pattern and low-heeled black pumps. I met my friends in the lobby, and we headed off to the famous night club where we could do the twist.

At that moment, I had no idea I wouldn’t live permanently in the U.S. again for twenty-four years! My life would take an unexpected turn.

 

 

10 Comments

  1. I just read your interview with Rural Reporters and I’m looking forward to reading your book. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Great news! Let me know when the book comes out and I’ll interview you for my blog, if you like.

  3. Catherine — You joined a memoir writing workshop? How purposeful! What was most useful about the workshops you attended? What tips can you offer about choosing a writing support group? Thanks, so much, for sharing!

    • Thanks, Luvon. The regular and thoughtful critique of my writing was most useful, along with the instruction from the teacher. This was a paid workshop offered by a private company. I actually found it online and signed up for an initial 8 weeks, and stayed for more than 2 years ’til my memoir was done! It’s one of two well-regarded writing workshops in Westport.

  4. Mrs Onyemelukwe: I believe your memoir will make an interesting reading, if not inspirational. I went to school with your son Chinaku (C-Shax back then) at FGCEnugu. We were friends. I was really impressed when I visited your home in Ikoyi and Chinaku showed me press clippings of your marriage in Nigeria and profile.
    Of course, back then our callow minds used tothink that Nigerians that married white people, always did that when they were abroad. So when Chinaku told us, his friends, that you got married to his dad in Nigeria we took the story with a lot of fascination. That was why those press clippings of report of your marriage in Nigeria impressed me a lot.
    You’re an exceptional person, wife and mother. It is my pleasure to congratulate you on finishing your memoir. I look forward to reading it.
    Best Wishes,
    Simon

  5. Pingback: Chimamanda Adichie, Teju Cole and Enuma Okoro on Nigeria | Catherine Onyemelukwe

  6. Pingback: A Challenge Question and an Igbo Market | Catherine Onyemelukwe

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.