By Jesse Kline, intern
Mary Trimble has been writing fictional narratives about runaway children and ranching for years, but her most recent book, Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps, is decidedly more personal. The book chronicles the two years Mary and her husband, Bruce, spent in the West African region Gambia in the early 1980s, and she told an audience about it at a recent reading at Main Street Books.
The idea of spending years in a place with a completely different culture seems terrifying but also edifying. The best moments of Mary’s time in Gambia were the everyday moments of immersion in the culture; getting along without cars and sometimes electricity, helping sick children in hospitals with the Peace Corps, or learning the language and culture of the Mandinka, a large ethnic group in West Africa.
Unlike English, the Mandinkan language is completely oral. The titular word “tubob” means “stranger.” The most difficult part about living in Gambia is the heat, which according to Mary reaches 100 degrees or more on a daily basis.
One of the challenges in writing Tubob was figuring out how to tell the story, said Trimble. Normally, Mary drafts outlines and story structures before even beginning to write, but the shift from fictional stories to personal stories required a different approach.
The book was extensively pieced together from old letters and photographs, the index of which runs over 40 pages long. While the story is about the experience of working with the Peace Corps, there is no shortage of stories about the people she met and the challenges and victories of their daily lives as well.
Even though Trimble has incorporated writing into her morning routine, her experiences are so numerous that a memoir the size of Tubob couldn’t possibly be written for each one. What made her experience in Gambia so worth writing about were the interactions with Peace Corps volunteers and Trimble’s desire to show what a good experience working with them can be.
Many people want to experience travelling to another country to volunteer their timebut the timing in their lives doesn’t always work out, she said. There’s always something, such as a grandchild being born or a family member dying, that prevents people from joining an organization like the Peace Corps when they want to.
Information about Tubob, along with Trimble’s other books Rosemount, McClellan’s Bluff, and Tenderfoot, can be found on her blog at http://www.marytrimblebooks.com/ which is updated weekly with stories from Africa, book reviews, writing advice, and other topics she finds interesting.