Jonathan Salley: When a Twelve-year Old Writer Moves to Africa

Jonathan Salley.

Idaho –> California –> Tanzania –> Kenya –> California –> Kenya –> NYC

Sophomore studying Media, Culture, and the Arts.

House of Winston Churchill.

MBTI: INFJ

I randomly heard a few weeks ago that this cool kid named Jonathan Salley moved from Kenya to New York City for school. Obviously I was intrigued. I finally got to have my much anticipated interview with Jonathan today and it was everything I hoped for. It amazes me how much you can learn about someone in twenty minutes…

As you can see from his “where I’m from” section earlier, J. Salley has been quite the little traveler. The first time he ever left the country, his family headed off to Japan to visit his grandparents. “It was my first time interacting with a different culture. I loved it. Normally I have difficulty with change, but this was different. It expanded my horizons, but I didn’t see the significance of it yet or realize the impact until years later. ” Jonathan made his way to Tanzania with his family who moved there to become missionaries. “My family lived in an extremely poor area. Tanzania is 99% Muslim. There’s a class system. People don’t understand everything they’re doing. In some regions, things like jihad and Islam aren’t as emphasized because they have a very limited understanding. They are Muslim because of tradition and not religion. Its hard to change them because its so ingrained in culture.”

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Jonathan told me about how it changed his worldview living in Africa. He now views American culture differently. By being able to take a step back and view our country from a different perspective, he has gained a new view that the American way doesn’t always equal the best way. This way of viewing culture is something we should all strive for. As Americans, we have so much patriotism for our country (don’t get me wrong… those Old Navy, Fourth of July shirts are worn with lots of pride and I support it fully), but we seem to have lost the binding as children of Christ. We all need to learn to take a step back to remember what ultimately unites us.

Little do we know, Jonathan Salley loves writing short stories and poetry. “Growing up in Africa, my mom would let me use her computer and I would spend hours and hours just crafting a huge story… and I was only twelve. Once when my friend read a piece of my poetry, he had a positive reaction and was super supportive.  I had never shared my writing before, so it gave me a lot of confidence and I was very encouraged to continue!” He described how he would love to be able to visit events in history like “Midnight in Paris.” In the movie, the main character is able to travel back in time and speak with famous writers and poets like F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, and so many more! “If they were actually all in Paris at the same time, it would be incredible to meet them all.”

Jonathan is the new rising Chamberlain of the House of Churchill. Reach out to him to hear a fantastic short story or poem and ask him about his stories in Africa. I don’t think you’ll walk away disappointed.

Follow Jonathan on Instagram here.

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