By Haringey Community Press
LONDON – Peter Molife, who taught geography and history at Northumberland Park School (now Duke’s Aldridge Academy) in Tottenham for 13 years, wrote his debut historical novel Eriza in 2019 at 69 years old.
The book, inspired by the migration of Zimbabwean women pursuing nursing in the 1960s, follows the story of Eriza, a young girl living in a small village in rural Zimbabwe who travels to England to study nursing.
Last month, Peter’s book was chosen to feature at the Black British Book Fair (BBBF). In his book, Peter explores a time of dramatic political and social shifts in Zimbabwe, the importance of education as a means of societal transformation, and the impact of migration on political change and family life.
He also explores the intersections of different Black cultures. Peter’s daughter – and editor – Rhoda Molife told HCP that the subject matter of the book is “very close” to his heart.
Peter was born and raised in a rural Zimbabwean village and saw two of his sisters migrate to England to study nursing. Peter also has experience of being a “repeat immigrant”, having lived and taught in Guyana, Jamaica and the Bahamas for around 20 years.
“I was inspired to write this book because women became more involved in the political liberation of Zimbabwe through their professional achievements and wanting to go back to Zimbabwe to help their fellow people, [and] they had to be political agitators,” says Peter.
Rhoda adds: “[He was also] inspired by the breadth and depth of our culture. It is really a combination of being really well travelled, understanding how rich our culture is, how many stories are within our stories around the world, the importance of recording our history, and being inspired by his own family.”
When he came to England in the ‘70s, Peter experienced racism and saw that there was a lot of integration and
intersection between different Black cultures: those coming from the continent and Black people coming from
the Caribbean, despite a narrative at the time which suggested otherwise.
“What my father does through Eriza’s [story] as a training nurse is show the closeness between Black people, especially between nurses who not only faced racism from the system but also from the patients,” says Rhoda.
“They had no choice but to band together and there was real camaraderie between Black people as well as the Irish because back then there was the ‘No Blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ mentality.”
Peter had to delay becoming an author as he says he wanted instead to prioritise the stability of his family abroad but decided to “follow his dreams” after retiring from teaching in 2014.
“He hopes to really add another chapter to the rich tapestry of what makes Black British culture and that people will really learn about the culture and family life of people from Zimbabwe,” says Rhoda.
“We all have stories to tell and no matter what age you are and if you have that urge to pursue that dream there is nothing that is stopping you. He wants to encourage people to really tell their stories because they are really important for the next generations.”
Peter is currently working on a sequel to his book which will look at Eriza’s return to Zimbabwe after it gained independence in 1980.