Ian Mathie, author of Bride Price and three (soon to be four) other African Memoirs, is the only person I know who has personally witnessed cannibalism. He put this horrifying event in context as I interviewed him across five time zones and one ocean recently. You can watch the video on YouTube or in the frame below and read the book to find out whether he actually ate any of that man.
Each of Mathie’s memoirs is unique in structure as well as content, but besides the fact they are all set in African countries, they all share one other feature. While Mathie is definitely telling the story in the context of his own experience, he is telling the stories of people he grew to know, respect and admire. He documents cultures and a way of life that’s all but disappeared in the ensuing thirty years, and his stories are a tribute and reminder that wisdom, love and compassion transcend time, place and culture.
I’m reminded of the works of Margaret Mead I read in cultural anthropology classes way back when. Like Mead, Mathie was a participant observer, by circumstance rather than intention. Though he was in the villages as a water engineer to help build safe water supplies, he kept copious notes and sketches in many languages about the people and his experiences. Like Meade’s, his books should be on the reading list in all schools. The world would be a better place if more diplomats made use of his insight.
I read a sweet short story last week that told of the author’s experience ordering breakfast at MacDonald’s. On the surface, what could be more ordinary and less-noteworthy than that? I found the story remarkable. I smelled frying bacon and heard it sizzle in the background. I heard children laughing. And I heard people grumble and complain when the the biscuit supply ran out. I also felt the warmth of a chance encounter and the joy of a day gone right.
Her deft depiction of human nature touched me deeply. Without a word to this effect, she challenged readers to adopt an attitude of gratitude. All this in about 700 words. That little story brightened my day. It’s a gem. In fifty years, it will shine even more brightly as a reminder of life back in 2013.
She and Mathie both focus on others, sharing life through their eyes as a way of expressing love for the people they know and see, and their own joy in life, while indirectly challenging us to choose the way we view life and respond to it.
Documentary stories such as the two I cite expand our vision and awareness. I appreciate both, and strongly encourage you to watch the video, then read Bride Price!
Learn more about Ian Mathie and his books on his website. All four books are available in both print and eBook format. Kindle format is on Amazon, and other formats on Smashwords.
Write Now: Write a story about an ordinary day, whether that’s today or once upon a time. Include your thoughts about the situation and people involved. Let future generations know what life was like from the inside and how it affected you.