I was absolutely exhilarated when the editors of guernicamag.com
informed me that my piece, "My Biafran Eyes," had been selected for
publication in the Best of the Web 2008.
The honor capped the paradoxical joy of writing a tragic story that came with several surprising inflections of goodness. Mine is a story of the savagery of (the Biafran) war, but also an account of the many ways in which human kindness ambushes evil even at moments when we have reason to fear that the worst human impulses are triumphant.
I was just seven when Nigeria, newly independent independent from nearly a century of British control, descended into war. Looking back as an adult on those days of misery when the living envied the dead, when stomachs were bloated with sheer air and from disease, when the drone of fighter jets brought sudden death, when the nocturnal cackle of gunfire stifled dreams, I was struck by the freshness and vividness of my memories--and yet the near-absence of any sense of recrimination. My childhood had been disfigured by war, but my soul had been spared any enduring scars.
Therein lies the miracle, the enduring beauty and resilience of spirit that are often the aftermath of bloody conflicts--and which enable the witnesses and victims of war to confront the future without the burden of bitterness.
Many who've read my story have remarked on its evocative power, its cinematic feel, and the magic of a child's sensibility at work on a grim, but--thank God--not unremittingly dark, canvas.
For me, what stands out when I reread the story is the intersection of hope and gloom, the confluence of virtue and villainy. It's this quality that makes the story engaging and compelling, for it's that arithmetic of good and evil in perennial contention that speaks to our flawed nature as humans, and our capacity for redemption.
Okey Ndibe (www.okeyndibe.com) teaches Fiction and Literature at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He is the author of a novel Arrows of Rain.