Catherine Onyemelukwe was 21-years old in 1962 when she first went to Nigeria for a two-year trip as a Peace Corps volunteer. Those two years turned into 24, as Onyemelukwe fell in love with a Nigerian, married, and raised three children before returning to the U.S. with her family in 1986.
Onyemelukwe’s experiences growing from an idealistic though naïve Peace Corps volunteer to an educator, parent, and entrepreneur are the subject of her recently released memoir, “Nigeria Revisited: My Life and Loves Abroad.” She will speak about her book at the Weston Public Library (56 Norfield Rd. in Weston, Conn.) on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. The program is part of the Library’s Lunch and Learn series.
Onyemelukwe recently shared with Books, Ink her first and most recent book loves, the first thing she remembers writing, and what inspired her to tell her story.
What is the first book you remember loving?
All those biographies with orange covers that our school library in Cuyahoga Fall, Ohio, and maybe the town library too, had.
What is a book that inspired you to be a writer?
It was more a question of what inspired me to tell my story – the writing was the way to do it! So hearing and reading books by other former Peace Corps volunteers inspired me to tell my own story.
What was the first thing you remember writing?
My senior term paper in high school, in Fort Thomas Kentucky, a conservative town, when I wrote about Walter Reuther, the United Auto Workers labor leader. I’m sure I chose the subject in part to please my father, an active labor union member.
What book did you read in school that you did not fully appreciate until later?
Ayn Rand’s “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” I was impressed by them when I read them in my freshman year in college. Later I realized they were overdrawn caricatures of idealized people.
What book would you make required reading in school?
Maybe “A Path Appears” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun.
What's the last great book you read?
“The Bully Pulpit” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
What would you call a "great American novel"?
“The Invention of Wings,” which I’m reading now. Also “State of Wonder” by Anne Patchett and “LittleWomen,” which I loved.