ISBN 9780980077438
Pages 160
Dimensions 216 x 140 mm
Published 2011
Publisher Cotton Tree Press, Liberia
Format Paperback

Konkai: Living Between Two Worlds

A Memoir

by Mardia Stone

Konkai Stevens was a quiet ten-year-old when he was molested at school by an older male student. The pain of the experience devastated him emotionally and was the beginning of his questioning about his sexuality. Konkai ultimately embraced a homosexual lifestyle, and, because he took no precautions, eventually contracted HIV and died of AIDS in Boston, USA, at the age of 32. This memoir, written by his sister, is a narrative of the dynamics between Konkai and his family as they dealt with his sexual orientation and his illness while their country, Liberia, was being destroyed by a brutal civil war. Told with intimate detail, Konkai is a tragic story of searching for one’s place in life, of longing for love and acceptance, and of preparing to let go.

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“[Konkai] is a daring enterprise as it is known that African people rarely write about themselves, and that Mardia Stone decided to write about the life of her brother despite the opposition of her family who wants to forget about what some consider a disgrace: being homosexual and having AIDS. Telling this story is an invitation to the protagonists to reassess their responsibility to this melodrama. The book affirms that the issue of homosexuality cannot be ignored or occulted perpetually in Africa. [Konkai’s story] moves readers and invites them to reflect and reassess the destructive stigma imposed on people who are suffering from a disease or who adopt non-normative practices such as homosexuality…The first and last consequence of denying homosexuality as a reality is that it obliges people to hide their homosexuality and facilitates the development of AIDS. Through this testimony, [it is clear that] Mardia Stone is not only a person capable of surpassing social and cultural clichés, but she is, above all, an African woman who fights to avoid seeing other Konkais in Africa.”

Elizabeth Moundo, Director, Africa Department, UNESCO

“I have enjoyed reading Dr. Mardia Stone's deeply moving and highly revealing book, Konkai: Living Between Two Worlds. It is about one family's struggles to come to terms with one of the most complex issues of all time: the individual versus the society. In Konkai, the author confronts the quest for individual freedom, including sexual freedom, in a society that often vehemently demands conformity with its norms and values. The book raises other critical issues about the social construction of sexuality and the lingering perception of disease (AIDS) as a moral/spiritual consequence of unbridled freedom. It encourages us to see death not as a punishment for some ill-defined sin but the inevitable end of all human journeys on earth. For Dr. Stone, Konkai is a story close to her heart. It is the pain of watching her brother slowly wither away in Washington DC, USA, some thousands of miles from her war-torn homeland of Liberia. Dr. Stone writes with affection and keen intelligence, and with an eye for detail. She has used her training as a medical doctor to probe the contours of a disease, the gradual deterioration of the human body, and its emotional and psychological impact on family members and friends. It is a measure of the author's deft handling of such a delicate story that in the end Konkai evokes in us both sympathy and understanding.”

Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba, playwright, journalist, and media arts teacher at the University of Abuja, Nigeria

“This book is important because it speaks of the experience of an African family, in Africa and in America. It takes on the uncomfortable and often deeply silent experience of homosexuality in an African family in the diaspora, and the similarly silent experience of AIDS in such families. Konkai shines a light on issues that continue to evoke shame, silence and fracture not only in African families, but in families all over the world. Dr. Stone is brave to write of her own journey as a doctor grappling with AIDS in her work and her journey as a sister endeavoring to really know her brother and accept him with love and honesty.”

Terna Tilley-Gyado, educator and writer
About the Author

Mardia Stone

Mardia Stone is an obstetrician, gynecologist and international public health specialist. She has worked in Africa, Europe and the United States, and has a keen interest in post-conflict health systems rehabilitation and health policy formulation. She has researched, written and spoken on issues related to women's health and HIV/AIDS in Africa, and is an advocate for those infected and their affected families.