Writing is Breathing and Living for Me - Samira Sanusi.

Samira Haruna Sanusi, our May TAMF Literary Birthday Intercourse guest’s birthday was on Saturday, May 6, 2017. She is the author of the book, S is for Survivor and Founder of the Samira Sanusi Sickle Cell Foundation. We had to break our tradition of publishing the interview same day as our guest’s birthday because her day was too full to permit a single stretch of interview. In addition to marking her birthday with family and friends, Samira Sanusi was also hosting a Fundraiser for her Sickle Cell Foundation on the same day. We started the interview in the morning of May 6, but her very busy day ensured that we could only conclude the interview three days later. Here is our chat with her.       

TAMF: How does it feel on this day of your birth?

Samira Sanusi: It feels great, not because it's my birthday but because on this day, and at this stage in my life, I have something huge and beautiful to be thankful for, I have a purpose, passion that makes me look beyond my own needs and wants, to serve humanity.

TAMF: Your life is indeed a story of courage, battling and winning the Sickle Cell disease to remain alive. Looking back through your travails, what is that one thing that kept your hope for cure alive?

Samira Sanusi: What, or rather who kept my hope alive was my father. I was a fighter but he fought fiercely and harder to find a way, to find doctors, to find whatever they required to make me well again. He gave me hope when I couldn't see beyond a couple of hours. Sometimes I wonder, if the roles were reversed, would I have been able to do the things he did, to give what he gave? To not give up? To fight even when the odds were against him and when everyone he knew told him I wouldn’t make it? Sometimes I am not sure I am capable of the things he is. Some people really are one in a million.
Samira and her doting father.

TAMF: You were that little girl that didn't like dolls much. Instead, you preferred books. What do reading books or writing mean to you?

Samira Sanusi: Reading books has been perfect for my imaginative mind. Where my limbs couldn't take me, where I had limitations, books took me places and allowed me to have experiences and be part of bigger things. Writing is a way of expression, breathing and living for me. I'm a strong believer that I write more than I speak.

TAMF: Was writing your book, S is for Survivor, in a way therapeutic for you, by way of expressing your mind's burden?

Samira Sanusi: It was very therapeutic in the sense that I was writing about so many things that I once refused to speak about.

TAMF: So what sort of relief did you feel with every word you wrote in the book?

Samira Sanusi: I felt relief AFTER writing the book. The writing process was gruesome though. It was like going to a therapist’s office. I had to come to terms with my past, my pain, my nightmares and things that I would rather forget they ever happened. So the writing was painful because of the remembering but the desire to tell a once untold and painful story kept me going.

TAMF: Many readers indeed connect with your story to the point of empathy. Why did you choose to write in the autobiographical style? Did you think using fiction to tell your story would have served you less?

Samira Sanusi: I wouldn't say using fiction to tell my story would have served me less, but I was very particular about the messages I wanted my book to pass across; of hope, inspiration, vulnerability, courage, perseverance and the highs and low. In order to achieve those purposes, I needed to be as raw and open, and sincere about my tests to give a full testimony.

TAMF: You were at the Ake Book Festival last year, did you read there?

Samira Sanusi: No I didn’t read the book at Ake, but it was awarded the Marine Platform Prize for Writing in Northern Nigeria. All the readings have been private or personal book readings excepting at the Book Jam session of the Abuja Literary Society.  

TAMF: You run a Foundation that supports Sickle Cell patients of which you are hosting a fundraiser later today. There is a deliberate artistic bent to the event with Dike Chukwumerije scheduled to do a poetry performance on and around the Sickle Cell disease. What do you seek to achieve with this creative infusion to the fundraiser?

Samira Sanusi: What we seek to achieve by having Dike Chukwumerije do a poetry performance for Sickle Cell is to capture and engage people's attention, tell the narrative of genotype incompatibility, plights for parents of Sickle Cell warriors, crisis and stigma the warriors go through and other issues that are supposed to make people feel emotional and compassionate enough to start taking the necessary actions to fund the Sickle Cell fight and break the cycle.

TAMF: Your work with your Sickle Cell Foundation is recognized outside Nigeria and you were recently awarded the New Leaders for Tomorrow Award by the Crans Montana Forum at a ceremony in Morocco.

At the Award ceremony of the Crans Montana Forum, Morocco

Samira Sanusi: The new Leaders for Tomorrow award under the Crans Montana Forum is a network of young people who are recognized and awarded for their work in civil society, governance and public sector in their various countries. The duration is for 3 years and in those years, you intensify the work you do with the network of people you meet and attend conferences hosted by Crans Montana in other countries that link you up to more opportunities, people and world leaders.   

TAMF: What are you currently writing? Are we expecting a new book soon?

Samira Sanusi: I have just finished writing a new book, to be published soon. It is entitled I Wrote This For You.

TAMF: Is it fiction?

Samira Sanusi: Non-fiction. It is a collection of Prose, Poems and Philosophical quotes about pain, struggle, hopelessness, determination, victory, survival, overcoming and self love/value.