"I've been obsessed with South Africa since I first read about Nelson Mandela in middle school. I had a FREE NELSON MANDELA T-shirt, and I read everything I could find about South Africa and its people: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Crossing the Line by William Finnegan, anything by Nadine Gordimer. (My favorite Gordimer is My Son's Story.) I wanted to go to Cape Town more than anything, and so I was stunned when Amy Biehl, an American Fulbright scholar, was killed there. To me, South Africa was a place of beauty and ghosts, a place with so many stories just waiting to be told."
"I finally traveled to South Africa as I was finishing the first draft of the book, and that trip changed everything. I spent a few nights in Khayelitsha township, outside Cape Town. While I was welcomed warmly, I heard many sad tales of sickness and violent death. One night, I woke to the sound of dogs barking and loud voices and I had a sudden thought: you shouldn't be here. You're a mother now, you should be at home. Someday, I realized, my son could tell a therapist, 'My mom left me when I was a baby and ran off to South Africa!' I lay awake thinking, Can I be a good mom and travel? Can I examine sadness and pain and still create a safe world for my son?' It was a long night with the dogs and this tinny music coming from a bar nearby, and by morning, the book had changed and so had I."