Friday, September 2, 2011

Zaire. What’s in a Name?

I had the most unbelievable, utterly fantastic experience last night and it was better than any high a substance could ever produce. (Lil Wayne might disagree with me, but I digress. LOL)  I’m going to go so far as to say that it was better than sex. What could be better than sex? I found real-life, actual people with the name Zaire.

In 2009, when I began to write my novel Zaire's Place about three very different women whose lives converge at a domestic violence shelter, I wondered what to name it. I knew that I wanted an uncommon name, something that would stand out. I started off with the name Nyseria and a co-worker I was temping with (Amy) told me that name was too uncommon. So I brainstormed some more and “Zaire” popped into my head. Amy loved it, but I had to get used to it at first. I was so stuck on Nyseria that it was hard for me to like another name. But then I began to fall in love with “Zaire” and now I couldn’t imagine any other name for my book.

Back then, I didn’t bother doing a search on the name Zaire because (as far as I knew), it was a country in Africa. It didn’t dawn on me that people would actually have the name because I had never heard of anyone with that name before.

So last night, I was talking to another author about our books and inspiration struck. I decided to search for people name Zaire on Twitter and Facebook and, to my surprise, I found plenty of them—of both sexes. “They’re going to think you’re crazy if you reach out to them,” my logical side said, but then I was like, “What the hell. Why not?”

So I started sending out friend requests and following the Zaires out there. Many of them accepted my offer. When they began to roll in, it felt orgasmic…the most amazing feeling ever. To see and feel the energy behind something you hold so near to you manifesting in the real world is beyond words. 

In honor of the Zaires I have found, I’m going to give you guys a sneak peek into my novel so you can find out why I named my book Zaire’s Place.

This is an excerpt from Charlene Wilson’s chapter when she finds out about the history of the shelter:

Counselor Dubois brought our attention to another picture, which was of a young light-skinned woman with long, thick black hair. She looked like she was twenty-something and had large, brown eyes that appeared carefree, fun, as she smiled a wide, toothy grin at the camera. A professional photo captured her smooth skin that was the hallmark of a  young, vibrant woman.

“And that’s Zaire, the young woman our home is named after,” Counselor Dubois said, staring at the photo, a “tsk” escaping her lips. “No matter how many times I tell the story—I’ve been here since we opened in 1988—it always strikes a chord.”

That’s when I found out what happened to Zaire. A tear slid down my face and I put my hand on my right cheek to hide it.

And this excerpt is from Rebecca Reich, my white character who has “issues” with black people:

Counselor Dubois, the head counselor here, told us about Zaire Thompson, the girl this place was named after, at orientation. Her mother, Kenya Thompson, started Zaire’s Place after her daughter was murdered by her boyfriend back in 1988. After years of abuse, he killed her, Daddy. Beat her up so bad that her life was forced out of her. They showed us the pictures, the before and after. Now that I think about it, it was probably a scare tactic so we could see where we could potentially end up if we didn’t leave our abusers alone. Judging by the name Zaire, you know she’s black, right? Zaire. Kenya. What’s next? Mozambique?

Don’t let Rebecca’s sour attitude about black people’s names soil the name Zaire. Read my book to find out if Rebecca’s attitude toward black people changes. By the end of the novel, I believe that people out there will respect the name Zaire and hold it near and dear for generations to come. 

Zaire's Place will be available soon (I'll keep you posted on the details). Until all the Zaires out there, this one’s for you! *raises glass for a toast*

Have a wonderful Labor Day, everybody!

P.S. If you want to see the blurb for the back cover of my book, click here

P.P.S. According to Parents Connect, Zaire means “River.” May life flow easily for you, Zaire

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