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Roberson, Heather

Roberson, Heather

PERSONAL:

Born in Columbia, MO. Education: Attended the University of California, Berkeley.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY.

CAREER:

Writer and peace activist. CIVIL (a Macedonia-based war prevention organization), special advisor. ACT NOW (a political organization), codirector.

WRITINGS:

(With Margot Ford McMillen) Called to Courage: Four Missouri Women, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2002.

(With Margot Ford McMillen) Into the Spotlight: Four Missouri Women, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2004.

(With Harvey Pekar) Macedonia (graphic novel), illustrated by Ed Piskor, Villard (New York, NY), 2007.

Former author of column, Columbia Daily Tribune, Columbia, MO. Also author with Harvey Pekar of the Macedonia the Book Web log.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author and peace activist Heather Roberson is a writer based in New York, NY. She is a journalist and former columnist for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri, the town where she was born. She is the author, with Margot Ford McMillen, of two books of Missouri history: Called to Courage: Four Missouri Women, and Into the Spotlight: Four Missouri Women, books which contain biographies of women who have played an important role in the history and development of Missouri. With artist Harvey Pekar, she wrote the graphic novel Macedonia, which examines the issues of peace and war in the volatile Balkans.

A longtime peace activist, Roberson became interested in war prevention during a 1993 trip to Vietnam with a group of Vietnam veterans, noted a biographer on the Macedonia the Book Web site. Roberson's position has been that conflict can exist but that war is not inevitable, and that war can be avoided or prevented altogether by societies that are truly interested in doing so. She encountered sharp disagreement with this position while a student at the University of California at Berkeley when a professor vehemently argued that war cannot be avoided. The debate challenged Roberson's thinking on the subject, and soon she found herself dedicated to proving that war does not have to be the unavoidable result of conflict and tension between countries and groups.

After the run-in with her professor, Roberson recalled her readings about the Balkan country of Macedonia, which had come to the edge of war with neighboring Albania twice during the first fifteen years of its independence. Both times, however, war had been averted. Roberson became determined to find out why and how Macedonia had been able to stop short of war with its neighbor. To do so, she traveled to the Balkans and throughout Macedonia and Albania, seeking information from government officials, meeting and interviewing natives, and observing the state of affairs as they exist in the day-to-day interactions between Macedonia and Albania.

Roberson chronicles the development of her dedication to the antiwar cause, her trip through Macedonia, and her conclusions about the noninevitability of war in Macedonia, a graphic novel written with noted independent comics creator Harvey Pekar and illustrated by artist Ed Piskor. Pekar is best known as the creator of the autobiographical comic series American Splendor, and became involved with the project when he met Roberson during a speaking engagement promoting the movie version of American Splendor. Pekar became interested in the reasons for Roberson's trip to Macedonia and her ideas on war and conflict, and agreed to become involved in the creation of the Macedonia graphic novel, arranging the test and the artistic layouts.

The book is "a story about a war that didn't happen, but it's also the story of why that war didn't happen. It's full of lessons and tools that people today need to hear about," Roberson commented in an interview on the Macedonia the Book Web site. Roberson and Pekar describe the difficulties and travails of her trip, including friends who question her motives for traveling alone in a dangerous country. She sees firsthand the distrust and racial hatred that many Macedonians hold for the country's minority population of ethnic Albanians. In turn, she encounters some disturbing anti-American sentiment as well. Through determination, she locates the officials she needs to interview and uncovers the resources that she needs to assess Macedonia's position in the conflicts, and how the country prevented the wars that seemed unavoidable at the time. "Once we are on the ground in Macedonia with the brave and committed Roberson, things pick up notably and we are able to feel her combined sense of bewilderment and accomplishment as she endures cultural derangement, makes friends, interviews governmental, educational, NGO, and notable personalities on both sides of the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian divide," observed Eric Olsen in a review posted on Blogcritics.org.

"If you're going to understand how exceptional Macedonia is, you have to see the effects of war elsewhere in the region. It's also important to understand just how small the region is, because it helps you see how easily conflicts can spill over the borders," Roberson remarked on the Macedonia the Book Web site. This knowledge "helps bring home just how important it is to prevent war," she stated.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 2007, Ray Olson, review of Macedonia, p. 29.

Mother Jones, July 1, 2007, Jen Phillips, review of Macedonia, p. 78.

ONLINE

Blogcritics.org,http://blogcritics.org/ (July 17, 2007), Eric Olsen, review of Macedonia.

Grovel.org,http://www.grovel.org.uk/ (January 28, 2008), review of Macedonia.

Macedonia the Book Web site,http://www.macedoniathebook.com (January 28, 2008), author biography.

Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (January 28, 2008), biography of Heather Roberson.

OTHER

Tell Me More, September 6, 2007, "Postcard: Woman Chronicles Journey to Macedonia," transcript of radio broadcast by author.

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