After a reading at the local Swiss library, I was asked to join the women to read and discuss together from my book “Laughter in the Shadows – stories of courage from 11 Zambian women”. To our surprise, we discovered that Swiss women had a lot in common with the Zambian women of my stories. One topic touched on today was that it is common for Zambian men to have a wife and one or two ‘concubines’ at the same time. I mentioned that I know of a couple like that close by. One woman then told of her father, who had a girlfriend when he was older, while married to their mother – they all knew about it and understood him. The pastor told us that the theologian Karl Barth had a mistress living in his household alongside his wife.
Another time we read of the stigma that often accompanies widows in Zambia and how lonely they can be. “Yes, I know all about that,” one woman says, and relates of how friends faded away when she lost her husband. Another nodded her head.
As we read about Loveness who fought against the traditional expectations of her as a wife and woman, we talked of our mothers or ourselves, who stayed home and cared for the children; of the fact that Swiss women didn’t get the right to vote until the 1970s; that even today women still are not always treated equal.
Powerful stories are ones that the reader can relate to and find him/herself in. I hadn’t realized just how universal these stories in my book were. I’ve accomplished my purpose in writing when I hear that the stories are an encouragement to those who read them.