My cousin asked me last week if I would be interested in working for her facility as an occasional translator/interpreter for French-speaking families. She is a social worker at a facility for adolescents with emotional, psychological and behavioral problems.
First, I remembered some of the stories she has shared about her work, and I thought, I can’t listen to that kind of stuff and translate it and not be emotionally affected by it myself. It takes a special person to be a social worker, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist who works with such people and such issues.
Then I remembered the time I had to interpret on camera the atrocities that had occurred at a church in Rwanda. Yup, on camera. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I hope the people of Michigan coughed up a lot of dough after seeing that report, but I wouldn’t know. The potential donor and his ABC-affiliate cameraman had me tour them around our trauma center, drive them to the memorial church, house them in our Kigali house/office. At dinner that night they apologized for putting me through the emotional strain of that church. But I never heard from them again. Neither did my Rwanda branch of the organization.
To give you an idea of the “atrocities”, during the genocide hundreds of people sought refuge in this particular church (and others like it across Rwanda). They were all massacred. And their remains were left there to serve as a memorial. Outside the church, tables held skulls of all sizes, protected by blue UN plastic sheeting. Inside the church, well, I’m going to leave it there.
So my point here is that, I can do this. I can translate and interpret for French-speaking families whose teenagers are in trouble. And maybe I’ll find another book idea in it.
When I first started writing, I didn’t think of myself as an issue writer. But I have always had an overdeveloped conscience. I can’t write something I am not emotionally connected to. Hence, Kwizera. And even Sophie, which on the surface seems like a romantic time-travel romp, has issues of social justice, and personal and religious freedom at its heart.
Will such stories ever get me an agent, book deal, financial success? Who knows? [insert Gallic one-shoulder shrug here] But I will keep writing the stories that speak to me and haunt me and we’ll see what happens.