Dr. Keonye Nowanko
A PLACE TO CALL HOME: THE LOST BOYS OF SUDAN by Thousands of Sudanese fled their villages between 1983 and 1987 due to savage attacks by the Sudanese soldiers and militias. Over two millions died and thousands were displaced. “A Place to Call Home” features six boys, ages 5-11 who fled South Sudan to escape genocide in 1987. Among them was Nathaniel Nyok (major character) who fled from a cattle camp: There could not be a sterner warning than the raging flames that scorched as they covered the atmosphere with blinding darkness. The fire was a dragnet, and if you were a Dinka boy, girl, man or woman, you knew what it meant. Flee your home and be butchered by assailants who were waiting with sharp knives, machetes, spears, and guns; flee and be captured and enslaved, or if you were lucky, flee and face a perilous journey. After dangerous journeys to Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya, Nathaniel and the five friends he met in Ethiopia found home in Atlanta. With the help of American friends, they found jobs including an acting job in Hawaii in the movie, “Tears of the Sun,” starring Bruce Willis. It was “fun in the sun” as they filmed, feasted on the set, and partied with Bruce Willis in clubs and his home for over three months. When they returned to Atlanta, Nathaniel, who completed his high school in Kenya attended Kennesaw State University, Georgia and graduated in 2011. He is now engaged in activities to build his new country. After years of negotiation for peace with the help of African rulers, international countries and organizations, politicians and celebrities such as former President, Jimmy Carter, George Clooney, and Don Cheadle, an independence for Southern Sudan was set for July 2011. Will independence be observed? Nathaniel wondered as he rushed to South Sudan for the event. The whole country was in jubilation and soon, the words, Freedom! Freedom!” echoed and reverberated. Soon, the huge South Sudan flag was hoisted. Tears flowed involuntarily. Those were the tears of the centuries, tears of memories of oppression, the violent deaths of our great ancestors, grandparents, parents, children, family, and community members. Yes! I could see faces and the freely flowing tears of generations and generations of people who’ve known nothing but terror, pain, and starvation. The author, Dr. Nkeonye Nwankwo met the six characters in the movie at the set of “Tears of the Sun” in 2002. They were actors and she was the consultant for the film. Fascinated by their story, Nwankwo befriended them and interviewed them for the novel. Nwankwo took exception to their stories, their culture, and their sustainable cattle rearing occupation. They were very happy and content people. Dr. Nwankwo started her career as a journalist with Daily Times of Nigeria. She left for further studies in the eighties to USA where she obtained her Master’s degree in Playwriting from Indiana University, Bloomington and Ph.D. in Dramatic Literature and Criticism from University of California, Los Angeles. Nwankwo is an award winning playwright, novelist, and educator. One of her plays won three categories of the NAACP theater award. Last year, Nwankwo separated from her teaching position at California State University, Northridge to become a fulltime writer.
Date Recorded: 8/27/2013 Podcast of the interview Download: