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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Desange Kuenihira talks about being inspired to write her memoir, unDEfeated Woman, and her creative process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Desange Kuenihira about her life and career, what inspired her to start writing, and the work that went into writing her memoir, unDEfeated Woman.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
As a young girl, I was told repeatedly that I was meaningless. An arranged marriage and motherhood before twenty—guaranteeing a life in poverty—were all I was told to expect. But I knew I had more inside me, and that education was the key to unlocking my potential.
In my memoir, unDEfeated Woman, I discuss the challenging journey of my childhood. I recall fleeing with my siblings from the civil war raging in Congo and the daily struggle of life in a refugee camp in Uganda, where I suffered many forms of abuse. I relate my journey to America, the culture clash of living with American foster families, and my quest for education and the ability to control my own life.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I first wanted to start writing my book when I got to America. When I was in 8th grade, I wanted to tell American kids how much we value education where I come from because some kids did not see the point of going to school! But when I started writing, it was no longer telling how much education meant to me, but became more about me writing my story and sharing it with the world!
When did you take a step to start writing?
I started writing this book when I was in 9th grade. I have been thinking about it for a while! I just started writing, and when I was writing, at first, I was not honest with myself. I was writing to please some characters in the book, and I was scared a little of what the world would think of me. It felt like, if my book could help a teen or another person to find out who they are, it would be worth it. I stopped caring about what the world would think and started writing.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It took me five years to finish writing my book. I had to rewrite a lot. As I grew, I started understanding the world better, my values, and how I view the world started changing.
What made you want to write unDEfeated Woman?
When I came to America, I started my journey to find out who I am! A book I read was Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. Seeing how he overcame his challenges in life motivated me to discover who I am. I no longer cared about other people’s opinions anymore. I had let the world define me; I had given so much power to other people. It was time to regain control and find the unDEfeated woman within me. It was a lot of hard work overcoming trauma and understanding that what happened to me was not okay. I am glad I took the time to understand and be honest with myself.
What were your biggest challenges with writing unDEfeated Woman?
My biggest challenge is grammar! I started writing this book after one year in America. I did not know how to write or read. So, I wrote what I could, and as I went to school more, I started rewriting and trying to use spell check in a Google Doc. I asked one of my friends at school to help me fix it. She started going through it, correcting grammar, and when she did not understand what I was trying to say, she called, and I explained. After that, I invested in a professional edit to help me get it to where a publisher could read it. I am glad I did because I learned so much.
How did you plan the structure of unDEfeated Woman?
I did not have a structure for this book. I just wrote all the stories I was already telling! The structure became what it is after the book got to the professional editor.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did unDEfeated Woman need?
The book did need a lot of editing, and I did get help editing the book from friends and a professional editor.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Start writing and keep writing until you are satisfied with your story or project. Do not worry about how long it will take; focus on the purpose and what you want people to get out of the stories. The message is the most important.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
There are stories that I can tell only in poems.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, I am, and it was worth every moment.
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