Pen & Passport: An Interlude
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place” – Nora Roberts
A writer’s life is a peripatetic one. People move in and out of a scribes sphere with the speed of a humming bird’s wings. With luck, as they flit in and then away, they leave a little inspiration, a little nectar dust and give more than they take. It’s rare but it happens.
One of those people, one of those hummingbirds in my life is Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond. We met in line for the bar at a party for a now defunct magazine. We struck up a conversation and over a decade later, we are still talking, still sharing and enlightening one another. Even as our lives and careers have taken different paths, we have kept in touch. We pollinate one another’s imaginations and help spread each other’s creative seeds, which is why I’m delighted to feature her in a Feminist Footprints Interlude.
A subtle, powerful, prolific writer and globetrotter, Nana writes about the modern woman through the lends of her own varied life experiences.
Take a few minutes to get to know Nana, her work, and how she moves through the world. You too will be inspired!
NAME: Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
1. First travel destination? Ghana.
2. How does travel inform your writing? Travel informs my writing in myriad ways. Just being exposed to different ways of living, doing, and being has changed my approach to stories and characters. I always want to make sure I’m pointing out that there are other ways of seeing something depending on where you live or come from.
3. What kind of writer do you think you would be if your family had stayed in Ghana? That’s such an interesting question! I don’t know the answer to that because everything would be different. My parents would be different. They would have raised me differently. My perspective and the things that matter most to me might be different...
4. What’s the favorite travel thing you’ve included in your work? I’m grateful whenever I can reference a people, place, or culture with authenticity and nuance whether it’s where they get their goat meat or how they view motherhood.
5. You travel both solo and with your sister. What’s the best/worst parts of traveling with friends or family? The best part of traveling with my sister is laughing! Having her right there with me when something crazy is going down so we can crack up about it is so much better than having to relay it to her later. In general, traveling with family or friends really comes down to our dynamic together. It’s the best when I can get away with someone I feel completely comfortable with so we can appreciate the adventures and discomforts of being outside our normal routine and context together. The worst is traveling with someone who shuts down or isolates themselves.
6. What’s your favorite place in the world? In a car, on a road trip in Ghana.
7. What’s your Bucket List destinations? My dream is to visit every African country in my lifetime.
8. What’s the most fun/scariest thing that you’ve ever done? Probably the scariest thing I’ve done is wander the Brooklyn Museum by myself at night. I have a weird fear of statues and other specific types of art in closed settings—the larger and more realistic, the creepier—and there I was alone in what felt like the most remote room in the museum surrounded by life size figures trapped in different postures, and I suddenly freaked out. I found my way to the nearest exit and bolted.
9. What’s the best/scariest thing you’ve experienced while traveling? One of the coolest and scariest things I’ve done is climb 75 meters up one of the pyramids in Giza, Egypt and 15 meters down another. Both pyramids were dark inside. The ladders were very narrow with people coming down and going up without order. After the fact, it hit home to me that the pyramids are tombs.
Similarly cool and scary, was the mummy room in the Egyptian Museum. It was fascinating to see the actual mummified remains of Queen Hatshepsut and other ancient royals in the flesh (if that’s the right expression) ,and to get an inkling of the genius and technology the early Eqyptians had to embalm the bodies the way they did, but it was also chilling to see these cadavers preserved from 1500 or so BC, hair stretching from their scalps, bleached from the embalming fluids.
10. What was your first solo trip? I started traveling alone between New York, Accra, and London from thirteen or fourteen years old. My first solo trip as an adult was around twenty-two or twenty-three when I went to Sardinia.
11. What does your family think about you traveling solo? For my mother there’s always a certain amount of fear that something negative might happen, or that I’m more vulnerable alone, but I come from a family that loves to travel so, overall, I think they’re proud of me for having the courage and means to go out on my own, and they’re happy for me that I get to experience new places.
12. How many countries have you been to? By God’s grace and provision, I’ve visited thirty-three countries so far.
13. Who travels more your African friends/family or your American/European friends/family? I haven’t really counted. Logistically, it’s easier for the American and European wings of the family to travel internationally because they don’t have the same visa restrictions the Ghanaian citizens do when it comes to visiting certain countries. But at the same time, the Ghanaians are able to travel all over West Africa and are more likely to have visited less popular places.
14. Do you rock your US creds when you travel or lean more Continental? I think I bring my whole self when I travel. I’m an American, born and raised. But I’m also borne of Ghana and was raised there for a few years during my adolescence. Plus, I’ve been traveling since I was a kid. I bring all of these experiences with me, consciously and subconsciously.
15. Favorite thing(s) you’ve collected on your travels? I didn’t “collect” this, but I will never forget the tuna sandwich I ate in Mont de Marsan. So good!
16. Biggest travel regret? I always wish I could have seen and done more, wherever I go.
17. Is there a person you’ve met in your travels that has changed your perspective or informed your writing? Who and how? So many. One of the best things about traveling is engaging people I might not ordinarily have a chance to meet or connect with at home. Every encounter and conversation makes an impact one way or another.
18. What’s your latest project? Right now I’m working on a novel and a children’s picture book. Pray for me!
Be sure to come back in November. We're giving thanks!
In the meantime, be kind to one another, keep on traveling with a feminist eye, and keep on being Feminist AF!