While The Twisted Circle is a work of fiction, it has been inspired by real events that occurred during my final year in a Catholic convent in my native land of Guyana. This presented a challenge when creating unique characters who did not mirror the true-life individuals. To distance myself from the protagonist, Sister Barbara Lovell, I made her a dougla—a person of African and East Indian ancestry, the country’s two major racial and ethnic populations. With a family background much different from mine, her journey led to its own unexpected resolution for the character.

The antagonist, Sister Frances Adler, presented an even greater challenge. How to create a complex white American character that would resonate with white readers? As a student at the Catholic high school for girls, run by the nuns, I had had several American nuns as teachers. Moreover, I had lived among them in the convent during my seven years as a young religious in training. Understanding Frances’ motivations and aspirations was another matter. Once I had determined that the Vietnam War had impacted Frances’ life, I was able to unpeel the layers of her journey as a woman driven by her pain of loss and guilt.

Religious Sisters of Christ the Redeemer (Fictitious Name)

Community at the Convent of Our Lady of Sorrows in Santa Cruz, Guyana’s Northwest Region:

Sister Beatrice – House Superior, headmistress of Santa Cruz Primary School, Portuguese descent, 46 years

Sister Frances – Biology teacher at Mabaruma Secondary School, white American from Ohio, 35 years Sister Barbara – Art & geography teacher at Mabaruma Secondary School, mixed African & East Indian ancestry, 26 years

Sister Gregoria – Former headmistress of Santa Cruz Primary School, in charge of housekeeping and meal preparation, mixed Portuguese & African ancestry, 68 years

Sister Rosario – Former primary school teacher, in charge of kitchen garden and convent-raised chickens, Amerindian from Santa Cruz Village, 70 years

Sister Alma – One of the founders of the Santa Cruz religious community, Portuguese descent, 86 years

Amerindian Convent Staff:

George – General handyman, 52 years

Mary – Washerwoman, 32 years

Teresa – Housemaid & assistant cook, 20 years

Other Sisters living in Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana

Sister Boniface – Mother Superior of the Guyana Mission, Portuguese descent, early sixties

Sister Angela – Barbara’s religious mentor & friend, white American naturalized Guyanese, late forties Sister Hazel – Barbara’s closest friend, elementary teacher, African descent, 29 years

Catholic Clergy of The Society of Jesus (SJ)

Father Andrew Peterson SJ – Barbara’s parish priest in Georgetown, local-born white of British descent, 48 years

Father Patrick Cullen SJ – Parish priest in Santa Cruz, Irishman naturalized Guyanese, in his seventies Father Geoffrey Goodman SJ – Assistant parish priest in Santa Cruz, Frances’ spiritual director, Englishman, 45 years

Staff & Students at the Mabaruma Secondary School

Staff Members

Milroy Allicock – Headmaster, mathematics teacher, Amerindian with British ancestry, late 40s

Colin Grant – Deputy headmaster, Agricultural Science teacher, African descent, 32 years

Patricia Gill – School secretary, African descent, 26 years

Sister Frances – Biology teacher, white American, 35 years

Sister Barbara – Art & geography teacher, mixed African & East Indian ancestry, 26 years

Laljeet Narine – English & history teacher, East Indian, 24 years

Feyona Belgrave – Home economics teacher, African descent, 26 years

Clare Valenzuela – Mathematics teacher-assistant, Amerindian, 22 years

Students with Major & Minor roles

Leonard Gilbert – Form 5, member of the Young Socialist Movement, African descent, 18 years

Ignatius Mendonza, called Raven – Form 2, Amerindian, son of local Carib shaman, 13 years

Samuel Rajpaul – Barbara’s Form 5 art student, East Indian, 18 years

Alice Rajpaul – Form 1, Samuel’s sister, worships Barbara, East Indian, 11 years

Paula Wilburg – Barbara’s Form 5 art student, African descent, 18 years

Bernadette Soares – Form 3, Amerindian, 15 years

Government Officials

Douglas Simmons – District Education Officer, Ministry of Education, African descent, 55 years

Jocelyn Bramble – Wife of the District Commissioner of the Northwest Region, African descent

Police Inspector Trim - Senior police officer in Mabaruma, African descent

Other Minor Characters

Cyril Wilburg – Postmaster in Mabaruma, friend of Barbara’s father since high school, father of Paula (student)

Stella Wilburg – Postmaster’s wife, Paula’s mother

Eline Gilbert – Mother of Leonard Gilbert (student)

Jacintha Lucien – Friend of Frances, mother of two of her students

Param Rajpaul – Headmaster of Mabaruma Elementary School, father of Samuel & Alice (students)

Rojo Kinney – Guyana National Service Regional Cadet Corps Officer, late twenties

The captioned photo shows high school students at morning assembly in Mabaruma in Guyana's northwest rainforest region.