By Edwin L. Carpenter
Mowat Tucker, the author of the powerful book, Diamonds in the Dust,
recently spoke with The Dove Foundation by phone from her home in South Africa.
Dove: The book you wrote included a lot of
the pain and hardship you went through in dealing with the abuse of children. At
what point did you decide to write a book about it?
Shirley: “My husband Mark and I had lived in
Canada for about thirteen or fourteen years and we had come back again. I got
involved with a group of orphans, they were teenagers, I helped them with
homework as part of a program. I did a writing competition for them and I said
to them, ‘I just want you to tell me your life story. I was so touched by their
stories. And when we first arrived back I was wondering what I should get
involved in. And I’d heard about a writing contest in Connecticut. So I decided
to do that and when I had to choose a subject for the book then immediately
that’s what I thought of, of actually putting a face to the orphans, of telling
their story because they have no voice.”
Dove: What were the challenges in getting
the book finished and published?
Shirley: “There were all kinds of people around
me who needed help so those kinds of challenges keep you from writing. It’s very
difficult to be published in South Africa. I had actually sent my book to
various publishers and been rejected and then I saw this writing competition
that Anthony Horvath had and tried for it and won. I was very fortunate that I
managed to get in that way.”
Dove: Has a comment about your book blessed
you or what positive thing can you tell us about in relation to the publication
of your book?
“I think one of my biggest desires for this book is that some of the hearts of
white people here in South Africa would be changed. There are a lot of people
doing a lot of good stuff now, and that’s been really encouraging. A lot of
people are really untouched by what happened in the communities and so I got
this little response back from a South African who made me feel quite helpless
and ignorant: ‘We’re so used to seeing poverty and filth on every street corner
that we eventually stopped seeing it. Deep down one knows that these terrible
things are happening in townships and rural areas (the abuse of children) but
because we’re not exposed to it, it doesn’t worry us and we don’t think about
it. I haven’t stopped thinking of your story since I read it. It was uplifting
in one sense in that a widowed white woman without means went above and beyond
the call of duty to help all the children and intriguing that somewhere out
there tonight there are real children hiding in their huts and waiting for me to
come; very African.’” “That was meaningful to me. That is my biggest desire,”
Shirley continued, “to help break down the barriers. There are an awful lot of
people who really are part of the solution now. There are still those who
struggle.” Shirley confirmed that there are efforts being made to turn the book
into a movie. Copies have been sent to interested film producers. “Of course
it’s a waiting game, you just have to wait now,” she said.
Dove: Since you wrote about the abuses of
the children, have things improved?
Shirley: “Any child is vulnerable because of
the age factor; because they are powerless and they can’t talk back, and women
too. I think the most common thing is they desire to have a door that locks.
It’s just not safe out there, just from the perspective of them having their
things taken and that kind of thing.”
Dove: It really comes out in the book that
you care about the kids.
Shirley: “The saddest thing is that they really
don’t have a voice and they honestly feel that they’re alone, that no one knows
or understands what they’re going through. It’s not a good place to be.” And yet
Shirley Mowat Tucker has given a voice to their suffering and she has opened the
door for others to become involved and make a difference.
Read Dove's Review of "Diamonds
in the Dust"