I just found out that an author I really admire, Bebe Moore Campbell, passed away on Monday from complications of brain cancer.
I blogged about one of her books Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad a few months ago.
I really enjoyed reading her books. She was able to get into the skin of her characters so well that even when you despised a character, you still understood where they were coming from. She was also an extremely funny writer. Brothers and Sisters was the first of her books that I read. Set in LA just after the race riots of the 1990s, it made me think about race in a way that I guess I really had until them and also acknowledge that as much as I despise any sort of discrimination, I (like most other people) had my own prejudices.
Bebe Moore Campbell was also an ardent advocate for the mentally ill, especially among African-Americans. Her most recent book, 72 Hour Hold, focused on this theme. Like in the African-American community, there is also a lot of stigma towards mental illness and depression in Nigeria and I wish this weren't so. Mental illness is not always manifested in the 'crazy', dreadlocked vagabond mumbling to him or herself or threatening violence to passers-by. Many forms of depression are a lot more insidious and sneaky than that. While some people have a genetic pre-disposition to mental illness, in many people, it can be triggered by a devastating event.
I think many of us need to develop more awareness about mental health and learn to show more compassion to people suffering from mental illnesses.