From Petty Trader to Award-winning Novelist

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The keynote interview with award-winning Liberian novelist Saah Millimono, conducted by Hawa Jande Golakai, another young Liberian novelist, produced some startling, never-before disclosures about Millimono, leaving the audience sighing with inspiration as his debut novel, Boy, Interrupted, launched last Friday in Monrovia.

Golakai, who also helped edit the manuscript for Boy, Interrupted, was also listed in 2014 as as one of Africa's top 39 authors under the age of 40, is also a medical scientist.  Her own debut novel, The Lazarus Effect, has won several awards on the African Continent.

“I feel great to be in conversation with Saah about this piece of literary work that has helped to expand Liberian history,” Golakai said.

She added that one of the amazing things about Saah is that he improves on criticism and dedicates himself to his work.

"If you want to write," Saah told the audience, many of whom were high school students and aspiring writers, "you have to be patient."  He speaks with a high-pitched voice distortion due to an apparent hearing impairment.  "Don't rush.  Sometimes I sit for two hours to write, and I come up with maybe only three sentences… then I have to wait for a still, small voice in my mind to tell me what I should write."

“I have never had a family and since boyhood have had to live in different places and with relatives, until finally I started living on my own.”

Saah attended the St. Kizito Catholic School, and then St. Michael’s, from where he graduated. From petty trading he tried to earn a living until he landed his first job at the Daily Observer newspaper as a literary columnist.

The video of the full interveiw will be published online shortly. 

The Liberian Association of Writers (LAW), provided advisory support for the launch event.  Its president, Mr. Llord Aidoo, described Boy, Interrupted as "an architecture of history translated into literature."

Kate Haines, an associate editor of Kwani Trust, publisher of Boy, Interrupted and sponsor of the launch event, sent a message, read by Liberian writer, James Dwalu: “Because of the distinct quality of  the voice in which Saah wrote Boy Interrupted, the novel has received lots of acclaim from readers in and out of Nairobi.

"The whole of Kwani Trust team has been impressed by Saah Millimono’s truthfulness and commitment to his writing… a story that takes us from the narrator’s difficult childhood years in Monrovia to a meeting with Kou, the beautiful girl who will change his life forever. Together they will witness their country’s descent into war and near cataclysmic destruction. Their love is tested by separation, loss, heartbreak, and emerges triumphant against all odds.”

Bai Best, who has been an advisor to Millimono, said that “his style of writing stirs the reader's mind and generates a thirst to know more.

"Although Millimono is often misunderstood because of certain impairments he happens to have, the achievements he has made thus far demonstrate some important lessons for all of us to learn," Best told the audience.

He said further that Saah’s talent has taken him to lots of places that are not necessarily physical, but which no doubt enable him to add value to the human experience. 

Hookies Badio, who spoke on behalf of several students attending the launch said, that from the explanations about this novel, it is excellent piece of literature that should be made available for school consumption.

 Also in attendance were dignitaries from the Ministry of Education, the American Embassy, Stella Maris Polytechnic University, as well as officials of the Liberia Collective Societies and the Liberia Copyright Office.

An excerpt of Boy, Interrupted is published in todays' edition of LIB Life, the Daily Observer's arts section.  Another excerpt will be read "in character" at Soul Sessions, a monthly open mic event held at Tides the Bar, on Friday, May 1. Copies of the novel will be on sale at the Soul Sessions event at $10 per copy.

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