Author Maria Nhambu immigrated to the United States when she was 19 years old to begin a new life, attending St. Catherine University in St. Paul. Now a resident of Delray Beach, Florida, she has been writing a memoir series that tells a beautiful story with relatable emotions and inspiring lessons. The second book in the trilogy, America’s Daughter, debuted earlier this year.
What inspired you to start writing?
My story has been telling itself in my mind for as long as I can remember. I would tell bits and pieces to friends, who always urged me to write a book. It was not something I ever wanted or felt I could do. In order to have peace of mind, I braved it and started to write. I felt as though I was saved from my traumatic childhood in order to recount the story of the mixed-raced children at the orphanage. After I came to America, I discovered that it is often the story of mixed-raced children all around the world.
Where do you write from?
I write from my heart. All human beings share the same emotions. We have all experienced some form of love, hate, fear and anger. We all feel the same pain when we are abandoned, lonely and unwanted. When we tell our stories from the heart, they transcend race, creed or culture.
I learned that having a good story and being a good writer were not enough to get noticed in the publishing world. Being an unknown, I realized that if I wanted to tell my story my way, I would have to self-publish, so I founded Dancing Twiga Press.
Can you give us some background about your first book in the trilogy, Africa’s Child?
Africa’s Child tells my story in Tanzania at the orphanage for mixed-race children where I was left as an infant. Because at that time in Africa biracial children were often discriminated against, German nuns started an orphanage and boarding school to take us in and educate us. However, due to bullying, cruelty and exploitation, it was still a tough existence. With the help of my own inner counselor (“Fat Mary”), I was able to survive, discover the healing power of dance and begin loving myself unconditionally.
Readers will meet again the American teacher who adopted me and arranged for me to attend college at St. Catherine University. They will also see how clueless I was as an immigrant about my new country and culture. Fortunately, I can laugh now as I share my blunders and misconceptions.
Perhaps the most important part of becoming an American was learning to become a black American. I thought of myself as an African who happened to be biracial, but in America, I realized I was seen first as black — although I knew nothing of American black culture.
I also tell about dating, falling in love, getting married and creating the family I longed for. I talk about my career, from being a high-school French instructor and teaching African studies to performing African dance and creating my own African dance fitness program, Aerobics With Soul. Also, part of the mystery of my identity is revealed!
What do you hope readers take away from your memoir series?
I hope they will see that the most important ingredient in a happy life is love of self. I also hope they realize that they don’t have to be defined by their past.