You have now heard my story – let me hear yours.
Dennis, Anita Katherine
Westbow Press (296 pp.)
$37.95 hardcover, $22.95 paperback, $9.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1490859576; November 20, 2014
“….Dennis led a life filled with remarkable events and translated them into an entertaining memoir….overall she proves to be a storyteller with a keen eye for detail and fully re-creates the complexities of her marriage and the exciting challenges she faced in Africa.”
The full review is available on the media page.
When author Anita Katherine Dennis walked into the anthropology class during her sophomore year at Ohio University in 1964, she was sure the class would prove interesting. She had no idea how right she would be. In Beyond Myself, she narrates the love story that developed between her and her anthropology professor, Dr. Ben Dennis, an African tribal chief.
In this memoir, she shares how God sustained her during her interracial, cross-cultural marriage—especially as she played the role of chief’s wife in a remote village in Liberia, West Africa. Her life was full of extremes. She met the president of Liberia in the Executive Mansion—and slept in a mud hut. She visited European capitals—and lived in a remote African village. She flew on transatlantic flights—and was carried through the high forest in a chief’s hammock. Anita shares her struggles as she is accepted into the Mende tribe and lived in Vahun with an off and on kerosene fridge, swarming termites on the screens, a cyclone barely missing the house, and pungent elephant meat delivered in the middle of the night.
Beyond Myself offers an example of West meets Africa personified. Anita tells how life with Ben was more than a marriage. It was an education and adventure wrapped into one. Ben allowed Anita to escape her narrow cultural confines and embark on a journey from farm girl to global citizen, with plenty of missteps throughout. For more information visit: www.anitakdennis.com. Visit www.anitakdennis.com for a movie of the tribal masked being, color photos, and my blog.
Anita Katherine Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in anthropology from the University of Michigan-Flint in 1973. She was accepted into her husband’s Mende tribe, lived in his village, and served as a lay missionary. Dennis co-authored Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to Liberia.
This is a video clip of Gbenii, the Mende masked being honoring my husband in the remote village of Vahun, Liberia, in 1972-73.
Also in the video are Nafalee and Goborh.
PHOTOS ON MEDIA PAGE
“You have an amazing story.”
–Heidi Mitchell, Literary Agent, D.C. Jacobson & Assoc. LLC
“This is a totally absorbing read and an honest one.”
– Dr. Sam Lowry, Publisher, Ambassador International
Beyond Myself: The Farm girl and the African Chief
By Anita Katherine Dennis
As I read this book, I grappled with identifying its major theme. In the beginning, I agreed that it’s a love story. Yet, at the same time, the author sees the mighty hand of God at work in every mile of the way, suggesting that it is a book of faith in the Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient God, the Father of all creation. Most assuredly, its central theme is that God is truly the Sustainer of humankind and in Him, all things hold together. This is fully demonstrated in the lives of Ben and Anita every step of the way. The marriage bond and relationship between the two of them is a classic example that in God all things work together for his dear children as they put their trust in Him. I commend the author for being brutally honest in writing a true account of her own life and that of her late husband, revealing the weaknesses and faults of both of them.
Especially for me as a native of Liberia, I strongly see this story as a description of the history and cultural practices of the Liberian people in contrast to the usual European or Westerner perceptions, which makes it ideal for anyone who is considering travel to another country or missionary work in a cross-cultural setting. Her account highlights the role of visitor in contrast with that of host. Many times, Westerners in a foreign land play the role of host when they are the stranger and should instead rely on the “know how” of the local people. Parents of teenagers will do well to use this book to understand the struggles their children go through when they are in love.
Rev. Amos Bolay
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia
P.O. Box 6620
Wow! What a great trip for me to the past that never gets old. Whether you know a little of the story, a lot of the story, or none of the story at all, this book is a must read. While it’s a story about two people who came from two completely different backgrounds, you can’t help but get totally encapsulated in how God brought Ben and Anita together. They shared their lives with each other in ways most people can’t or maybe won’t, living their dreams along the way, used by God to touch thousands of others, including myself, with their undying love for those around them whether in the USA or Liberia. Do you want to read a true love story? A story of intrigue and surprises? A story of how difficult it is to live in another culture and the problems a black man and a white woman face when they fall in love? Finally, do you want to read a story about how God’s Love can sustain someone through the good times and the bad times? Then read this book!
I, for one, have become a better person over my lifetime because of my friendship with Ben and Anita Dennis and their boys! This book has helped me to love them even more!
Rev. Dr. Robert M. Roegner
LCMS World Mission, Missionary to Liberia, West Africa 1981-90
LCMS World Mission, Area Secretary for Africa 1990-96
Lutheran Bible Translators, Executive Director 1996-99
LCMS World Mission, Executive Director 2001-2008
Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and The African Chief is an honest and enthralling true story about a cross-cultural and interracial love that develops between a farm girl and an African chief in the midsixties and spans nearly five decades. It’s about love, loyalty, forgiveness, and the adventures that can unfold when one chooses to walk the path less traveled, which often winds outside of our comfort zone and straight into uncertainty.
When Anita enrolls in Anthropology 101 as a sophomore in college, the last thing she expects is to strike up a friendship and eventually fall in love with her professor, who is not only many years her senior but who also bears the marks of an African chief in star-shaped scars on his cheeks. In an era far less accepting of interracial relationships than today, the notion of a relationship between a black man and white woman has “scandalous” written all over it. Anita navigates the conflicting emotions of a budding love toward the end of the civil rights movement with parents who oppose it strongly.
I thought I had experienced pushback when I married a South African man in the twenty-first century, and I assumed I’d experienced Africa in my two and a half years living in South Africa. However, as I read her story, I found myself continually in awe of her ability to surrender to all that was placed before her. I loved her honesty and rawness as she shared her experiences and treasured her ability to forgive.
—Holly Mthethwa, author of Hot Chocolate in June
I love your prose. It is only you that would narrate the intricacies of Gbandi and Mende life and culture in such a fascinating manner. With your commanding knowledge of your husband’s people, you weave together an intriguing account of your lives together. Even readers who are not familiar with Gbandi and Mende culture will have little problem in understanding your story. I learned a lot about Dr. Dennis in your book about slavery and racism, but I got a clearer knowledge of him from Beyond Myself.
—Losay Lalugba, son of the late chief Lalugba of Vahun
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