Always in search of something interesting and creative to pursue, Aliona had her first book Nappy published by a small Black-owned press in New York. The book was her first published writing ever. A few years later, she followed up with For Black Writers, which she self-published and originated as a workshop for the African American Women on Tour conference (www.aawot.com). She co-presented the workshop with friend and fellow author Monique Gilmore-Scott (www.writingminds.com). Influenced by a high school graduation trip to Kenya, she joined the Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov) as an opportunity to be of service to the world and to experience living in Africa. On February 4, 1999 she landed in South Africa to begin a two year stint as a School & Community Resource volunteer. In 2000 she started the Great Black South Africans project while in Timbavati village, Acornhoek, where she lived with a family. Once she returned to the States, the project became an obsession and she worked three jobs to make it happen!
Fueled by a failed attempt to compile an anthology of African-American Returned Peace Corps volunteers, she came up with an idea to make a documentary. To learn the in's and out's of creating digital videos, she enrolled in a video production class at Laney College, a junior college in Oakland. She then joined her local public access station, Berkeley Community Media www.betv.org, and the rest, as they say, is herstory! Head Designs: For Your Frame of Mind, her first documentary short, will begin the independent film/video festival circuit in the summer of 2006.
She is currently working on a travelogue about South Africa, a portion of which can be viewed at www.iveknownrivers.com (in the movement section, also check out Cedric Brown's piece on Brazil). The anthology idea has since been transformed into the Parallel Journeys documentary.
She lives in Berkeley, California where she is on the lookout for delectable vegan desserts. (7/29/07http://www.alionagibson.com/Bio.html)
Two Years in the New South Africa
On February 4, 1999, a mere five years after the first democratic election in South Africa, author Aliona L. Gibson landed at Johannesburg International Airport to begin service as a United States Peace Corps volunteer. Not exactly her first choice of places to serve in Africa, (actually, not even on her list of desired places at all), she is placed in a modern-day time capsule and transported back to the days of Jim Crow. Legal segregation (apartheid) is now a thing of the past but the legacy and remnants of the worlds most brutal and oppressive system of government still lingers in the country and among its people. For the post-Civil Rights generation it was an era for which they have only read about in history books, seen in movies and heard oral histories.
Join Aliona as she recounts living in a rural environment, hitchhiking, braving the streets of Johannesburg, getting hooked on "kwaito" (South African hip-hop), struggling through learning the local language while trying to convince people that she was not from neighboring Zimbabwe or Ghana and is privy to the love/hate relationship South Africans seem to have with African-Americans and is forced to deal with racially motivated, confrontational situations. She learns about the historical links between African-Americans and Black South Africans, and that our connections go back way before most people are aware of.
Peace Corps service is completely voluntary, you can leave whenever you choose (and some did, even before the end of training), read about the bonds formed with her host family, neighbors, community members and the children, all of whom were a driving force in her effort to stick it out for the duration of her two years. She came face to face with a childhood phobia that forced her to face her fears.
BLACK WRITERS....A Personal Account of How to Write, Publish & Market
Your First Book
Click to order via Amazon
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: A.G. Publishers (March 1, 1998)
Do you have a great book idea?
Would you like to become an an author?
Have you always wanted to write a book but didn't know where to start?
If you answered yes to any one of these questions, For Black Writers...is the book for you. This book is a first-person account of how the author went from having nothing more than letters to the editor published to landing a hardcover book deal. This book gives details of how to write, publish and market your book from someone who has "been there, done that." Ms. Gibson generously shares with readers the steps she took - even the exact query letter and synopsis she sent to publishers - towards publishing her first book, Nappy: Growing Up Black and Female in America.
Growing Up Black and Female in America
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Hardcover: 165 pages
Publisher: Writers & Readers Publishing (May 1995)
This coming-of-age memoir takes a vivid and humorous view of one young woman's struggle within herself and with the complex and sometimes conflicting worlds around her.
The book chronicles how the vibrant and beleaguered Aliona Gibson, growing up in the 1980s, came to terms with the politics of identity and learned to appreciate her beauty and her strength. The stories contained here address with striking candor the issues of self-image and identity in America. Using her personal experiences, Gibson examines how American standards of beauty affect women of color and their struggles for self-acceptance.