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How One Working Mom Did This, from Physical Therapist to Novelist

By Brook Cosby

Rudo Takawira knew she had a story to tell, but as a busy working mom, putting pen to paper was easier said than done. She had overcome outsized challenges before though, so she refused to give up on her dream.

Born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and trained at the University of Zimbabwe as a physical therapist, Rudo moved to London in her early 20’s to work as geriatric mobility specialist. After several years she’d established a thriving career, but she knew that to become the healer she felt called to be, she needed more training. So a second transcontinental move brought her to Atlanta where she earned her Master’s in Public Health at Emory University. Here she met her husband Jona, a fellow Zimbabwean, and they now have two children, ages 8 and 10.

Upon earning her Master’s and launching a new phase of her physical therapy career, the many big choices she’d made, personal and professional, began to form a story in her head. She’d been writing since childhood – short stories just for fun, for friends – but this was something more. As an immigrant twice over, Rudo was fascinated by the experience of learning new cultures and the tensions inherent in the multiple identities that immigrants assume: the homeland self, the new home self, as well as the deeper, perhaps spiritual, self beneath either of those two. And she was deeply curious about how immigrants, with these multiple selves, form meaningful cross-cultural relationships. Reflecting on her own experience dating in both the UK and the US, she realized that romantic relationships are an apt lens through which to consider immigrant experience. Her questions about the multiple versions of herself that she had been while dating people from varying cultures, and what life would have been like had she chosen a different partner, slowly converged into the beginnings of a novel.

A year later, despite working full time and raising two children, Rudo couldn’t shake her fascination with multicultural romantic what-ifs, and the story of Maita, protagonist of her now-published novel Turning Tables, began to emerge. Maita shares a background very similar to Rudo’s own: she’s a physical therapist from Zimbabwe who moves from England to the US. From this foundation of deep familiarity, Rudo began to craft Maita’s story as entirely her own, exploring the possibilities of loving two very different men: a Black Nigerian and a white Brit. One of her main interests in writing this story was the idea of perspective, how both our self-awareness and our perceptions of others change with time. How do you really know if “The One” got away? Maybe he was right for a previous version of you, but not your present or future… These questions and more, punctuated by multicultural complexities, make Turning Tables an introspective exploration of how we come to know ourselves and our hearts.

Her interest in the multiplicity of identity shows up even in her own name. Rudo was born Rudo Alice Takawira, and she lives her daily life as “Rudo,” including in her physical therapy practice. But as an author, she goes by “Alice.” Having a pseudonym helps her take on the challenges of being an author. As for any doubts that Rudo may have, Alice is undaunted. And having two names helps her know, when she’s being addressed as one or the other, which self she’s being asked to be, personal or professional. For the purposes of this profile, she’ll go by Rudo, since her story of becoming an immigrant, a professional, a mother and an engaged member of her Atlanta community all predate her pen name.

The similarities between Rudo’s experience of being pulled between names and Maita’s of being pulled between loves is not their only overlap. The unforeseen challenges of Maita’s love life rival Rudo’s own in creating this novel. She credits Jona for encouraging her to prioritize her writing, even suggesting she cut back her working hours to have more time to devote to writing. His faith in her galvanized her feeling that the story of Maita needed to be told. As a mother of two, Rudo agrees with the oft-made comparison between writing a book and having a baby: there’s a small kernel that grows within you, the process is internal – and often uncomfortable, and delivering the completed work is a tremendous undertaking, to put it mildly.

Rudo’s work, however, was hardly finished once her book was “born.” She then dedicated herself to getting Turning Tables published. At first she pursued signing with a literary agent, the traditional path to publication. Agents serve as gatekeepers to the publishing industry, brokering relationships between authors and editors. But the process of securing an agent was endlessly frustrating, months-long waits to hear “no thank you” or nothing at all. Rather than give up when agents passed on her manuscript, their disinterest only strengthened her resolve. The resilience she’s developed as an immigrant -- moving away her family to pursue a future that wasn’t possible in her home country, as well as her experience overcoming adversity as a Black woman in the UK and the US – has given her a resolve to beat the odds, to see beyond “no” and chart her own course.

Though she had no formal training in writing, she had an extensive background as a reader. A member of three libraries in her childhood, she’s read more books than she can begin to count. She’s run a book club in Atlanta for years and especially loves the tension of a good mystery. She cites Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, as one of her greatest inspirations. Her preparation to actually publish a book, however, came with no such template. So she did what she’s always done: sought examples, learned as much as she could, and forged ahead.

As a first-time author with no name recognition, the process of launching Turning Tables often felt like an uphill battle, but after all the hard work of writing it, she couldn’t imagine an alternative. She took a course on self-publishing, and hired experienced proofreaders and editors, determined to make her manuscript as tight as possible. She set aside her personal aversion to social media and launched Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to connect with readers. She devoted herself to promoting the book online and in person, reaching out to friends in cities across the US and setting up her own book tour. She even produced her own audio book, hiring an audio engineer as well as three different voice actors to read the three sections of the novel, each narrated from a different main character’s point of view. And for her YouTube channel, she created a “book trailer,” a compilation of short scenes that give a tantalizing overview of the story.

Reflecting on all her work to release the novel, she admits that she put herself through the wringer. But it felt like the only path to take; “I had to invest in creating a quality product.” Now that she’s given her all to Turning Tables, she speaks about it with a sense of earned accomplishment: “I know I’ve done the best I can – in writing, editing and all the rest. If someone doesn’t like the story, that’s fine, there’s nothing I can do about that. But as far as the writing itself, I know it’s solid. I’m proud of how hard I worked on that.” And reception to the novel has been overwhelmingly positive. Reviews on, and more all praise the immersive plot and captivating language.

So what’s next for Rudo? She laughs that her trajectory as an author is starting to resemble her trajectory as a mother. “After my first baby, I thought never again, but then I had another…” While there’s no due date yet for her second book, she can’t deny that she’s doing it again.


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