So Many Incredible Stories

Author Interview

Sleeping With Lions: A Year in Tanzania shares your experiences in East Africa and your personal journey to rediscover who you are. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I love a good story, and there were so many incredible stories that I experienced during the year I lived in Tanzania. I wanted to share these experiences for many reasons—for example, to dispel misconceptions back home about what a year in Tanzania was actually like for me. More than anything, this is a valentine to my friends and family in Tanzania, especially the four Tanzanian priests who invited me to live with them. It is a unique love story centered on brotherly love. It was also important to write this book to celebrate Tanzanian thought, philosophy, culture and language. It was such a joyful, contemplative, and rich experience filled with wonderful people. I wanted to acknowledge and honor an incredible year in a beautiful place where I was surrounded by love, profound thought, natural wonders, and the best friends anyone could ever have. I wanted to share something optimistic and positive.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

First of all, thank you. When I first started writing about these experiences, it was as a diary, so that is probably why it is so candid. Writing about my personal journey was the easy part; trying to capture the beauty and atmosphere of Tanzania was probably the hardest part. It is like when people share photos and say “this photo does not do the subject justice.” There is a reason Tanzania is such a popular adventure travel destination with Zanzibar, Mount Kilimanjaro, and The Serengeti Desert, but it is also so much more than that. The hardest part of writing about my year in Tanzania was truly capturing the beauty of the landscape, the culture, the languages, and the history. As happy as I am with the book, I still know that my writing did not do the country, or my friends there, justice.

What is one piece of advice someone gave you that changed your life?

It is funny because the one piece of advice that changed my life came from my mom who is not one to generally offer advice, and I am not one who is generally inclined to take it. Many years ago, noticing how I was struggling as a young, first-time mom and trying to still pursue my own dreams, she said: “You can do all the things you want in life, just not all at the same time.” It was one of the few times I have taken advice from anyone, but I am glad I did. She encouraged me to recognize different seasons in life and to prioritize my time. She added that the school where I taught could always replace me but my daughters could not. Although the culture around me was telling me I could “do it all,” my mom modified that by adding “…just not all at once.” She also repeatedly emphasized how quickly children grow up, something that is hard to recognize in the exhausting early years. Because of this, I prioritized early motherhood and my daughters. My mom was right: these years flew by, and I was able to continue with a career I love and reconnect with my own dreams later on. I hope this book reflects the appreciation for the seasons of life and this loving advice from my mom.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

The one takeaway I hope readers will take to heart is to reconsider the cultural stereotypes and misconceptions about places in Africa like Tanzania. I hope readers come away with an enhanced understanding about the culture, history, and wonder of Tanzania. More than anything, I hope the voices of my Tanzanian friends and colleagues that I have tried to capture here will be amplified and show readers that there is a lot to learn from the Tanzanian way of life.

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon

Faced with an empty nest, a single mother and linguist from California embraces the opportunity to return to East Africa where she had once worked as a young woman.

Living with four priests in Bukoba, Tanzania on the western shores of Lake Victoria, the author teaches at a small college and works closely alongside her research partner, a Kenyan linguist and poet. Throughout her year in Tanzania, she establishes new friendships and also travels throughout the country, visiting places like Kilwa, the Serengeti Desert and Zanzibar.

In this true story, Lee Anne McIlroy celebrates the rich cultural, historical, natural, and linguistic landscapes of Tanzania while reflecting on her own life, exploring what it means to be a mother, a woman, and most importantly, a human being in the modern world.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on December 10, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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