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When a man writes a woman

EMPATHETIC: Emeka Egbuonu, author of 'My Sister's Pain'

MEN HAVE written for and about women for years. From Leo Tolstoy to Charles Dickens, the male’s perspective on womanhood is something that has been analysed and criticised, but one male author really capturing an authentic woman’s point of view is Emeka Egbuonu.

His recently released third book, My Sister’s Pain, details the struggles of sisterhood and what black women go through, as we follow the lives of two friends. In order to achieve a tone of voice similar to that of a black woman, Egbuonu reached out to more than 100 women to dissect their stories and mindsets.

“I wanted to make sure that my book wasn’t just a male viewpoint on women so I outsourced and reached out to women,” says Egbuonu.

The idea for My Sister’s Pain was born out of a visit to Holloway women’s prison — a visit that would change his outlook on life and take him on a journey.

“I did a talk at Holloway women’s prison and I had the opportunity to sit down with a lot of women and hear their stories,” says the 30-year-old.

“While hearing these personal moments, ideas started to manifest in my head concerning the book, and I was just moved by this network of sisterhood that they created and that they were able to uplift themselves regardless of the circumstances.”

While Egbuonu began to develop the concept for the book, he was initially hesitant about writing it.

“I didn’t feel like I was well equipped to write the book, and a lot more groundwork and research needed to be done. But after speaking with my editors, I realised that the message of the book was more important than my gender, so I pushed on and wrote it.”

The west African youth worker and author wrote the book in three months, and swears by a rigorous and disciplined writing process.

“I wrote 7,000 words a week, and remained strict when it came down to it. Being that disciplined is one of the hardest parts of writing a book but it must be done.”

The discipline may have been a struggle, but Egbuonu’s passion and personal ties to the book definitely made the process easier.

“My mother, my daughter, my sisters, they all inspire me,” he says.

“I saw the contributions my mum made to the family, her coming home tired from work and doing what she had to for us. From that, I knew I wanted to create a book that showed black women in a powerful light.”

In a world where black female friendships are often portrayed as ‘bitchy’ and constantly ‘throwing shade’, it was key for Egbuonu to show a true image of black sisterhood that defied the stereotypes perpetrated in mainstream media.

“These stereotypes are a narrative in the media and is a part of a negative cycle.”

“In My Sister’s Pain it was about showing a reality that people don’t see. To be able to ditch those stereotypes, and see black women in their natural form and to teach our children to not subscribe to that way of thinking.”

While the wordsmith took inspiration from the women in his life, he also credits his upbringing in Hackney for inspiring the books he’s written and the career path he’s chosen.

“Growing up in Hackney only emphasised to me how much we need to tell our own stories because if we don’t then who will?

“Knowing the relationship we had with the police to what the education system is like, I realised that we needed a stronger support network within the black community and need more black people supporting other black businesses.

“There’s so many different things you learn when growing up in Hackney, and you start to think what skills do I have and how can I make a difference, and for me it was working with young people and writing, and that’s where my strength lies.”

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