A new author has emerged on the literary scene with an anthology of short stories called "A Season’s Assemblage." Her name is Cleo Magwaro, and she’s a resident of Fair Oaks’s Penderbrook community.
Originally from Zimbabwe, she started writing the book in 2002 while attending law school in Australia. Then she became busy teaching law and government classes at a university in Queensland, Australia, so she didn’t finish her book until around 2005.
"It was a long labor of love," said Magwaro. "I’d put it aside, go over it and edit it. But I didn’t put it all together until 2009 when I figured I had enough different types of stories to include in the book. And I changed some of the stories over time."
Meanwhile, she was also busy living her life, which included moving to the U.S. "I wanted to get my masters in International Law at American University’s Washington College of Law," she said. "I got it in May 2011."
Magwaro is also a wife and mother. Her husband Joe works in business development and their daughter Zoe is 2-and-a-half. But now, she wants to let people know about her book, and she’s proud of what she’s accomplished in it.
"I wanted to have stories that would speak about various types of experiences," she explained. "I also wanted to see how my own experiences reflected on my writing to learn what qualities I had as a person. It’s fiction, but I treated my characters so they’d be relatable to readers."
It’s a slim volume, just 84 pages, but Magwaro’s packed it with a variety of interest-catching characters who overcome different challenges. "They’re always coming out of a struggle," she said. "I’m African and my characters are African men, women and children."
MOST OF THE STORIES are set in Africa, as well, and all except one take place in modern day. In the first one, the main character is dealing with issues of self-worth and domestic abuse.
"But it’s approached in a lyrical way because I like poetry and beautiful words to introduce my characters and their thought processes," said Magwaro. "Most of the story is told through the woman’s perspective, but there’s also another voice that’s interjected. It reminds her of who she was prior to her abusive situation and encourages her to reach into herself and see herself as someone capable of finding true love and worthy of having it."
Magwaro also likes to leave some things unsaid so the readers may make up their own minds and appreciate learning about lives they might not know about, otherwise. "It’s real and it’s relatable – no matter where the characters live – because people can identify with the characters and their humanity," she said.
Another story looks more closely at how she views "the process of childhood and memory – and how we reconstruct events in the past and call them memories. I wanted to put down something beautiful and memorable."
Still another of Magwaro’s stories in the anthology examines suicide. "But it’s done without judgment and looks at what could have led to the character’s decision to do this," she said. "Observing her life objectively, it seemed fine on the surface. But she didn’t have the courage to explore what she didn’t like about herself."
Another powerful story is written from a father’s perspective. "It tells about his lost dreams and what he’d want for his daughter if he could take her back in time to a place he once knew," said Magwaro. "For example, he would have lived by an ocean. But how do you explain what an ocean is to someone living in a landlocked country?"
Magwaro’s paternal grandfather was originally from South Africa. So, she said, "I’ve always wondered what it was like for him to have lived there. He was kidnapped by others and taken to what was then Rhodesia as a young boy. So I wondered what his dreams and aspirations were and what he would have thought of South Africa if given the chance to go back there."
But Magwaro always likes to look on the bright side of things, so most of her stories have happy endings. "They speak to people’s tenacity and their ability to overcome their struggles," she said. "I self-published my book in Zimbabwe, but I’m looking for a literary agent or publisher for the U.S. and other places."
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the book or to contact her, go to www.aseasonsassemblage.com. The title refers to the name of the first story Magwaro wrote for the anthology, with the seasons being a metaphor for various memories.
Her goal in writing it was to create characters that people wouldn’t otherwise be familiar with or initially believe they could relate to in their own lives. She’s now working on a novel exploring the lives of strong, African women "making tough decisions and coming out of them stronger, happier and more complete."
The toughest part of writing "A Season’s Assemblage," said Magwaro, was "allowing other people to read it before it was finished and see any possible flaws." But what gave her the most satisfaction, she said, was "being able to sift through my own thoughts and preconceived ideas and discover who I am through my writing."