UVA Alum’s Words Make African History Come Alive

What does it mean to have courage? Most of us might first think of those who put their lives on the line in defense of an ideal. Two of those who did this: Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjold. If these names don’t ring a bell you are not alone. Yet these two were part of events that should be a part of our cultural literacy.

Luckily, James Bell has just published his 4th novel, Crisis in the Congo. In this deeply researched congohistorical novel, Mr. Bell brings fiction into the service of truth while still telling a compelling story.

In the interview that follows, Mr. Bell tells why he decided to write the book and gives us insight into the creative process. Mr. Bell is courageous to me in a different way than most of us might think of when hearing this word. He has dared to try to give us words that both entertain and instruct. Not many have been able to do this well. He does.


Before I ask about your recent book I think it would be helpful if you give readers some background. Can you tell us first about where you grew up and a bit about your family.

I grew up in Virginia Beach Virginia. My father was a civil engineer and mother was an art and art appreciation teacher at a private school. With those genes, I decided early on to become an architect. I found out too late into architecture school that I was neither passionate enough or talented enough at it. Still I have a degree from UVA and highly recommend this as a terrific course of study to pursue — the practical and theoretical coming together in something that people truly experience — even if you never practice one day of it. It is a lousy vocation, terrific advocation. Not to mention, starting salaries in New York City were $8500/year, so it was never a realistic career option.


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