Local woman writes book about apartheid in South Africa

Erin Clark turned 23 this week, and she is already the published author of a novel that chronicles the life of a South African man from boyhood through adulthood.

"The book is basically about the apartheid movement as seen through the eyes of a black man living in South Africa," Clark said.

"Thomas Mapfumo, a fictional character, spent his life growing up in South Africa when apartheid was legal.

Now, as a man, the laws have changed (making apartheid illegal) but conditions have not."

Clark said she started the book when she was 19, and, except for a few minor changes and additions, basically finished the 300-page book titled, "And it Rained Red," about a year ago.

The seeds of consciousness that led to the writing of the novel, a fictional story based on historic facts, were planted many years ago, however.

Clark moved to Kingman when she was in the fourth grade to live with her mother Eve Hanna, a life-long Kingman resident whose grandparents were one of Kingman's pioneering families, and three siblings.

Her stepfather, Bill Gumaer, was a Kingman justice of the peace for nine years and her family was always politically aware, she said.

"When I was 13 my brother, Preston, had a video that covered the history in Africa and what was going on over there.

Then I read 'The Power of One,' by Bryce Courtenay, about apartheid seen through the eyes of a white boy living in South Africa.

It really sparked my interest," Clark said.

She kept up with that interest throughout her teen years and after graduating from Kingman High School in 1997 attended Central Arizona, a college near Casa Grande.

It was during her college years that Clark began forming alliances with anarchists dedicated to resolving issues peacefully outside the realm or government.

"I became an anarchist," she said.

"A lot of anarchists are associated with violence, but that is not what we were about.

We were a peaceful international group trying to inspire social change for the better.

I was also involved with Greenpeace."

The more Clark learned about what was going on in South Africa, the more she thought about writing a book.

"Racial segregation was set up by the government.

In 1993 the law was abolished, and apartheid was officially declared over with, but that is not actually what is happening over there," she said.

"There are still water fountains for whites and faucets for blacks.

"Johannesburg is a thriving city inhabited by white people.

Black people come into the city to work for a pitiful wage, but they live in townships outside the city in homes made of boxes and boards."

Clark added that South Africa has the highest rate of AIDS and AIDS-related deaths in the world, and is on the most poverty-ridden continent in the world.

Although Clark has never been to South Africa, partly because of the very real dangers that exist, she did extensive research to gain the sensibilities of black people living in South Africa.

She said the protagonist of the novel is a man, rather than a woman, because black men in South Africa have borne the brunt of the social injustice there.

"In South Africa a man holds the position of authority and is held responsible for everything.

It was the men that were put in the prison camps – not the women.

Men have been through more of what I needed to say in the novel," she said.

"Even though I have never suffered the way those people have, I was able to identify enough to write from their perspective."

When the manuscript was complete she sent it to several publishers, with no success, but later a friend who knew the publishers at Chicago University Press spoke on her behalf.

"He asked the publishers to at least 'take a look' at the manuscript," she said.

"After reading it they said they would publish it."

Clark said she received an advance on the book, as well as travel expenses to fly to England to do further research on the book.

She will also receive a monthly royalty check based on sales of the book.

"The book is just getting into book stores," she said.

"Any future earnings will depend on how well the book sells.

We haven't sold that many books, but we really haven't gone into the throes of publicizing it yet."

Clark met with the publishers in Chicago twice during the past year to work on editing of the book.

"I felt like a celebrity.

They paid for everything," she said.

"They sent a taxi for me and put me up in a nice hotel."

They are also paying for Clark's flight to Chicago for a book signing next week.

Clark works as a legal clerk and receptionist at the Kingman Daily Miner and attends Mohave Community College, but the fledgling author is already thinking about another book.

"I think every book I will ever write will be political," she said.

"These books are personal journeys for me, I would write them even if they didn't make money."