Iqaluit author explores war, love and African lineage in first book
‘Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe’ is 10 years in the making
After writing the first chapter 10 years ago, Alan Webb has published his first novel.
“This story has been in my head for a long, long time,” he said in an interview Thursday at an Iqaluit coffee shop.
Webb is a Zimbabwean-Canadian who has lived in Iqaluit for 10 of the 22 years he’s lived in Canada. He published Once Upon A Time in Zimbabwe on Nov. 9.
It’s a work of historical fiction that focuses on Webb’s character Joseph Daniels, a Zimbabwean who was born just before his country’s independence in 1980. With ancestors who came to Africa from England in 1820, Daniels must navigate coming of age in the 1990s as someone who is mixed race. Daniels traces his lineage through several centuries of African history.
Webb said it is a story about romance, war, conquest and racial identity.
“But the ultimate theme of the story is that we’re all human beings,” Webb said.
“At the end of the day, we all have our shortcomings but, at the same time, we have a lot of resilience.”
Initially, Webb said he was going to write about the Rhodesian civil war, which led to Zimbabwe’s independence from the British in 1980.
Webb lost family on both sides of the conflict. But he said if he was going to write a story, he wanted it to one that was enriching.
“I’m not going to write about the war,” Webb said.
“I’m going to write about life in general.”
Webb’s writing background came from blogs and short stories. He said friends encouraged him to write but he pushed back, saying he was “just an average guy.”
“I didn’t quite believe in myself,” Webb said.
But he added that as time went on his wife told him he needed to write a book, as he had the skills to do so.
Webb has worked for the Department of Family Services and Justice Department.
Outside of work, he said he has volunteered with the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre and worked with the Uquutaq Society homeless shelter, where he is currently a board member.
Webb added he is also involved in Nunavut’s Black community, being one of the founding members of the African and Caribbean Association of Nunavut.
Webb’s book is available digitally on Amazon, Apple and Google Play.
The paperback and hardcover are available for order from Friesen Press, although the publishing company does not ship to the territories.