St. Catharine College will host a book discussion on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 4 p.m. with recently-published author Dr. Mansim Okafor.
Dr. Okafor is an associate professor of Anatomy and Physiology at St. Catharine College, as well as the chair of the Natural Science department.
His book, titled Elma: This Will Heal the World, is about” sexual abuse in a modern-day war, the courage of one woman with a sense of history and the travails of a family that lost all but peace of mind for proactively doing good,” according to the book jacket.
The story follows Elma Revjadic, a Bosnian Muslim professor.
Okafor writes the book from a female perspective. After receiving feedback from several people at different writer’s conferences about males writing from a female perspective, Okafor chose the pen name Edita Mesanovic, which is a female Bosnian name.
The fictional story is rooted in Okafor’s personal experience of his life in Nigeria, where he was originally from.
“I think I grew up feeling that there is no line between people,” Okafor said. “In that sense, a burden on one should be a burden on all irrespective of location or ethnicity. In a world that is becoming smaller by the minute, I believe people should care a little more about the welfare of others especially in situations when an injustice or harm is suspected.”
He recalled a day that one of his sisters was nearly raped during civil war in his home country.
“My little sister nearly got raped. It was this close. And she was with me,” Okafor said. “That was the day I would have killed someone or somebody would have killed me.”
In his culture, he explained, if a woman is raped it is seen as the entire family being raped.
“It is the job of the men in the family to punish the culprit severely enough to purge him of that malady or make him to look away from our compound whenever his demons act up again. It is that clear,” he said.
Some years later, around 1996, Okafor said he was reading a Newsweek article, Born Under a Bad Sign by Stacy Sullivan and Joshua Hammer, about a Bosnian woman who was repeatedly raped by a neighbor. The woman became pregnant and subsequently had a baby that no one wanted. In the news article, the woman said, “He has wounded me in a way that I will never heal.”
“That sentence got my attention,” Okafor said. “I couldn’t imagine this type of fate befalling my mother, sister or daughter.”
Okafor said he was so impacted by the article afterwards that he was nearly ran over by a car in the parking lot of the lab where he was working because he wasn’t paying attention.
He told his colleagues he was going to write an article about how more people needed to be aware of atrocities such as the one he read about in Bosnia. He was dissuaded and shelved the idea.
Eventually, though, the urge to tell the story wouldn’t be silenced.
He wanted to tell this story, he said, so that people could become more aware of the injustice done a beautiful people.
Okafor said it took four or five years to complete the book. Editing the book proved to be the biggest challenge, he said.
“This is not my area of specialization,” he said. “I didn’t believe I could write 10 pages let alone two hundred. But I believe there is a switch in the human spirit that, when triggered, drives one to attempt the impossible.”
The book came out in July and has been well-received, Okafor said.
“They say it’s good and many still do not believe I wrote it,” Okafor said. “I’m a scientist, you know; I don’t talk literature, I don’t talk fiction and I don’t watch movies. With that in mind, I don’t blame those who can’t believe that I made it this far.”
Okafor will discuss the book and sign copies from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Nov. 7 at the Emily W. Hundley Library. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event. The book is also available online at http://www.amazon.com/Elma-This-Will-World-Volume/dp/1467942731/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383310887&sr=8-1&keywords=elma%3A+this+will+heal+the+world. For more information about the event, call the library at (859) 336-5082 ext. 1260.
He has a second book, The Parable of the Lost Shepherds, in progress.
Founded in the Dominican tradition in 1931 and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, St. Catharine College, a Catholic Dominican college inspired by its founders, welcomes all to the challenging pursuit of truth, preparing them to become critical thinkers, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.