In her second book details her return to Africa thee decades after her first trip
In 1957 Dorothy Stephens was apprehensive about moving to Kenya, but in her new book “Africa Calling Me Back” she details her return to the country, 30 years later, that she grew to love.
The Marblehead resident will have a book signing at Barnes & Noble, Northshore Mall, 210 Andover St., March 14, 1 p.m.
Stephens, 94, is from Maplewood, New Jersey, and spent summers at the Jersey Shore with her grandmother. She and her husband first went to Kenya in 1957 because he got a job at the consulate as consul of education and cultural affairs.
She was nervous about the move because she “had three young children at the time and it was towards the end of the Mau Mau Rebellion so there was still fighting going on.”
But after arriving, Stephens fell in love with the country.
“The first time, we were eyed suspiciously until they realized we were Americans and then we were welcomed with open arms,” she said. “They tended to be biased against the British, but they loved Americans. The second time, we had a number of old friends we kept in touch with and they treated us very warmly while we were there.”
Stephens and her family lived in Kenya for two years before returning to the United States when her husband was assigned to an African desk at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Stephens said she was sad to leave Kenya because of how much she loved it there.
“We would have liked to go back, but the State Department decided otherwise and stationed us in Washington,” she said.
But They Would Go Back
Stephens and her husband returned to Kenya 30 years later because they were both writing books and had gaps in their research. When asked about the differences between her first and second time in Kenya, Stephens said that the biggest change she saw was how women were treated in the country.
“In one generation, the women in Kenya had leaped into the 21st century,” she said. “[They] had jobs in everything, they were everywhere, and they were smart and elegantly dressed and very impressive. Whereas when we were there in the ’50s, there were almost no educated African women that we met. Not going to school, generally speaking, it was a huge change for one generation of women.”
The Writing Life
Stephens said that being a writer has changed her life for the better. She enjoys writing “because I can just lose myself in it and be in another world for a little while. I get a lot of satisfaction from being immersed in a world of words.”
She says that being able to publish these stories has also greatly impacted her life.
“I have met a lot of people I would not have met otherwise,” she said. “I have become a member of two different writers’ groups which I would not have done otherwise. It’s lead to all sorts of new activities, contacts and experiences.”
But at age 94, Stephens said “Africa Calling Me Back” will likely be her last book.
“I don’t think I have another novel in me, but my children want me to write my autobiography, so I’ve been working on that on and off,” she said.
Meet Stephens and ask about her life in Kenya in person during her book signing, March 14 at Barnes & Noble, Northshore Mall, 210 Andover St., March 14, 1 p.m.