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Interview: Monica Macias, author of Black Girl from Pyongyang

CSC speaks with Monica Macias about her memoir, "Black Girl from Pongyang: in Search of My Identity". She opens up about her sources of inspiration, her approach, and the lessons she gained from her writing journey. In this conversation, we delve into a central question: How does understanding of different cultural perspectives contribute to the pursuit of peace?

What inspired you to write this memoir?

It all began with research about my identity. Having an African-European background and growing up in Asia, I had a very strong identity crisis. I needed to learn first about my father to understand where I came from. During the course of my research, I encountered numerous experiences, including instances of racism, the power dynamics between dominant and other cultures, and their impact on narratives. Consequently, I felt compelled to share my experiences with others and initiate a dialogue within our societies.

What did you learn when writing the memoir?

Writing my memoir was a process of catharsis. I have learned to deal with all my emotions. I believe that understanding how to deal with our emotions contributes to a healthy lifestyle and society. A healthy adult creates a healthy environment and that in turn prevents violence in our societies.

Equatorial Guinea and North Korea have continued to be two of the most brutal regimes in the present day. How do you think sharing your unique, albeit privileged, experience contributes to violence and atrocities prevention, if any?

I would like to say that North Korea and Equatorial Guinea are two different societies with different problems. By sharing my story, I thought I could offer a different perspective of events that is not only from the “dominant” narrative. This, in turn, fosters self-awareness, and individuals who possess self-awareness and education play a vital role in nurturing a healthy society, thereby contributing to the prevention of violence.

For instance, in the book, I talk about forgiving my cousin who killed my father and the process I went through in doing so. Hate is a form of violence and can be a strong motivation to destroy ourselves, family, community, society, country and ultimately our world: my behaviour impacts my family, my family’s behaviour impacts my community, my community’s behaviour impacts my society, my society impacts my country and my country impacts our world. Thus, we can contribute to the prevention of violence and atrocities from our everyday behaviours.

Your memoir identifies a myriad of cultural experiences, at times conflicting, throughout your life. What role do you think understanding different perspectives on culture plays into building peace?

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” This quote from UNESCO Constitution reflects exactly the role of culture in peacebuilding that I resonate with. We— including policy makers and decision makers—all belong to one culture or another. Therefore, I believe mutual understanding and respect of different cultures is at the centerpoint for long lasting peace, as opposed to rejecting or imposing cultures.

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