Eucabeth Odhiambo, Shippensburg University associate professor of education, introduced her debut novel, which examines the impact of HIV/AIDS in Kenya and how it inspired her during the writing process Thursday evening in SU’s Old Main Chapel.
Her novel, titled “Auma’s Long Run,” tells the story of a young girl living in Kenya whose village is suddenly plagued by HIV/AIDS. Auma has the dream of becoming a track star, and is presented the opportunity to attend a high school where she can pursue her dream.
Once her father becomes ill, she is confronted with the decision of leaving her village for more hopeful opportunities or staying to take care of her family.
Odhiambo was born and raised in Kenya in a Christian home where she was the third of nine children. While attending school, Odhiambo was exposed to literature and poetry that would later inspire her to write her first novel.
“My father was an editor, critic and reader,” Odhiambo said.
Although the novel is fiction, much of the story is based off of her own experiences. One of her first encounters of someone with HIV/AIDS was her uncle who eventually died from the disease.
Kenyan doctors believed Odhiambo’s uncle had died from an illness called “chira,” which Odhiambo said is caused by not following cultural practices.
No one had heard of AIDS at the time, but Odhiambo said AIDS was to blame for her uncle’s death. Even now, chira is still publically declared as the cause of his death.
Odhiambo believes, for the most part, women are the victims of HIV/AIDS. Often, men went away for work where they would have extramarital affairs and get infected, according to Odhiambo. In the book, Auma’s mother contracts AIDS.
“Yet, she was just being a good wife. I write about Auma’s frustration that adults are not answering her questions. She wonders if they even have answers,” Odhiambo said.
While writing the book, Odhiambo was mainly inspired by her own studies conducted in Kenya. She studied the day-to-day life of people, and was surprised by the lack of knowledge on how to prevent HIV/AIDS. By writing her book, she wanted to inform people and heighten global awareness.
“My goal is to share the deep personal experiences of people impacted by HIV/AIDS,” she said.
She believes that people can better understand people’s experiences by broadening their view of the world. Her novel allows readers to relate to her character and learn skills such as problem solving, how to deal with loss and sacrifice and resilience and hard work.
“At the point I decided to write, the story was waiting to be written. I had experienced the story in many ways,” she said.
She is currently working on her second book which is about an immigrant girl who is trying to find her place in the U.S.
“Auma’s Long Run” is now available to the public and can be purchased on Amazon.