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Literary fiction, Women, Coming of age, Africa, Politics, Violence


Scissors Paper Rock is based on the true story of Amy Biel, a young and idealistic American woman who went to South Africa to support the political effort against Apartheid. She worked there as a volunteer organizer during a time of great political turmoil, and was days away from returning home to the United States, when she was violently killed in a riot. While Amy's death was not an accident--four men were found guilty for taking her life--it is certainly possible to think of her death as a tragedy. Amy's idealism and belief in her power to do good, allowed her to put herself into the midst of forces over which she had no control, and which ultimately overwhelmed her. In this novel, a fictionalized version of Amy's story, a young American woman named Miya Clare goes to the African country of Oneg Kempo in the hope of making a difference. While there, she is killed during a political action against white oppression that escalates into a riot. Although Scissors Paper Rock does not focus primarily on Miya's death and the events leading up to it, those elements are certainly part of the story, and are presented in the novel as testimony in an amnesty hearing for one of the men implicated in Miya's murder. But the real heart of this work is the story of Miya's life, not her death, and the main narrative of the story investigates how she came to be the person she was. What were the complex threads of her personal history, the disparate collection of events, people, and interactions that formed her? How did they shape her world view? Why did they lead her to make the choices that she did, and to take the actions that that ultimately led to tragedy?Miya Clare's death was an accident, but her presence in Oneg Kempo was not. She was there by choice, or rather, by a multitude of choices. What those choices were, and how they made Miya into who she was, are the engine of this story.