Literary Type
March 2003

    Norman Rush’s (CD Botswana 1978–83) greatly anticipated new book, Mortals, will be published in June by Knopf. This long (592 pages) novel chronicles the misadventures of three ex-pat Americans: a contract CIA agent operating undercover as an English instructor in a private school; his beloved but disaffected wife; and an iconoclastic black holistic physician on a personal mission to “lift the yoke of Christian belief from Africa.” According to the flap copy, “The passions of these three entangle them with a local populist leader whose purposes are grotesquely misconstrued by the CIA. And when a violent but pathetic insurrection erupts — stoked in part by the erotic and political intrigues of the American trio — the outcome is both explosive and explosively funny.”

    Nancy Forsythe Farmer (India 1963–65) has won the prestigious 2003 Newbery Honor for the third time with her sci-fi novel for young adults The House of the Scorpion. This novel also won the 2002 National Book for young adult (YA) readers and the 2003 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature. The novel’s lead character is a smart boy who is created to use as spare parts for his “father,” a 143-year-old drug lord. Clones are only one of the sinister attributes of this futuristic society, in a country called Opium that is carved out along the border between Mexico and the United States.
         Nancy grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border and now lives in Menlo Park, California.

    Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962–64) has a new mystery out this month from St. Martin’s Press. The novel, Tongue Tied, is written under the name Richard Stevenson. It’s the eighth in Lipez’s Donald Strachey PI series. In this one, Strachey becomes involved with a radio talk show host who is being harassed by a group calling itself the Forces of Free Faggotry.
         In the Book Review section of The New York Times on March 23, 2003, reviewer Marilyn Stasio labels Stevenson’s books a “sophisticated series,” and adds, “Stevenson smoothly engineers the action into smartly entertaining investigation that also makes a serious point about the uneasy lives of gay cops: ‘The out cops get beat up on, and the nonout cops beat up on themselves.’”

    In the spring edition of American Legacy magazine, Kevin Lowther (Sierra Leone 1963–65) explores the roots of the back-to-Africa, or colonization, movement which began sending free blacks to settle in West Africa in the early 1800s. “To Leave or Not to Leave” recalls the intense national debate at the time, among both whites and blacks, over the place — if any — of the mounting free black population in American society. One organized response by influential whites, was to send willing blacks back to Africa, which led to an abortive settlement in Sierra Leone and then to the establishment of Liberia.
         Lowther remains engaged in African affairs as the Regional Director for Southern Africa at Africare. He and C. Payne Lucas (Staff: Togo, Niger, Washington 1964–71) recently republished their 1978 critique of the Peace Corps’ first 15 years, Keeping Kennedy’s Promise. The book is available for $17.50 postpaid by writing to Kevin at

    Teaching Right From Wrong: 40 Things You Can Do to Raise a Moral Child, by Arthur Dobrin (Kenya 1965–67) and published by Berkely Publishing Group has been translated into Chinese and published by CITIC Publishing House of Beijing. It is also being translated into Korean and published in Seoul. Dobrin’s other new book, Ethics for Everyone: How to Increase Your Moral Intelligence, published by John Wiley last year, is also being translated into Chinese.

    “World’s Smallest Essay on the Coming Miniaturization of Literature” by Jason Sanford (Thailand 1994–96) appears in the current Flak Magazine. You can read it online at:

    Poet Jacqueline Lyons (Losotho 1992–95) has a collection of poems I Am Missing Your Voice coming out in late 2003 from Hanging Loose Press. Jacqueline has published poems and essays in a wide range of literary journals including Florida Review, Grain, Phoebe, Quarter After Eight, Puerto del Sol, and Sonora Review.

    Ronald Wheatley (Nigeria 1963–65), a Boston lawyer, as well as an army draftee in Vietnam from 1967-68, has written a play about Phillis Wheatley, a young Boston slave girl brought to trial in 1771 for “claiming” to have written poems that were so brilliantly written that she was compared to England’s Poet Laureate, Alexander Pope. The poet was defended in her trial by the brilliant John Hancock, who, with the governor of Massachusetts, signed a document attesting that the poems were, in fact, hers.
         The play, entitled “The Trail of Phillis Wheatley,” had its first performance recently at the Bridgewater State College during Black History Month and received standing ovations at its initial performances. (Anyone wishing to produce this play [great for high school and college audiences] can contact John Coyne for Wheatley’s address.)

    D.C. resident and bibliophile Joe Kovacs (Sri Lanka 1997–98) has a piece online at the Literary Traveler website on Langston Hughes. Entitled, “The Harlem Renaissance, Washington, DC and the Rise of Langston Hughes,” it can be found at:

    Kristi Ragan’s (Fiji 1979–82, Tanzania 1984–85; PC/Staff: CD Cote d’Ivoire 2002) article “Cote d’Ivoire Evacuation: The Peace Corps Component” appeared in the February 2003 issue of the Foreign Service Journal. Ragan, a veteran of 15 years of working in developing countries of Africa, was appointed in June 2002 to be the next Peace Corps Country Director for Cote d’Ivorie and was working at the Peace Corps Headquarters in D.C. and was scheduled to depart for Abidjan in late October when an attempted coup happened in-country of September 19. In the Journal article, she recounts her experience as the Peace Corps representative on the State Department task force that managed the evacuation of Cote d’Ivoire and tells the amusing story of the final Peace Corps Volunteer to be evacuated on October 2, 2002.
        The woman, who was affectionately referred to as “the Lady of the Lake” by the members of the State Department Operations Center that monitored the evacuation of Americans, had been stranded by herself on the side of a lake with no transport for over a week. She had finished reading all the books she had and sat at an abandoned Shell station on the main road out of town, hoping to catch a ride with departing expatriates. When no one came by, she started writing a movie script about her “ideal rescue,” which would involve handsome French military troopers landing on the town’s soccer field and whisking her away in their helicopter. In the end, and in real life, that is exactly what happened.

    In an OpEd piece in the January 25th issue of the Washington Post, Joanne Omang (Turkey 1964–66) celebrated being a woman turning 60 with “Older and So Much Better.” She closed the essay with a call to her aging sisters: “Geezerettes, crones, grandmas and blue-haired goddesses — unite! Our time has come at last.”

    George Packer (Togo 1982–83) wrote the cover story for the New York Times Magazine Section on Sunday, March 2, 2003. Entitled, “The Morning After: Does Democracy in Iraq stand a chance?” Packer details the struggles inside the Administration between the State Department and the Pentagon, as well as the failure of the Future of Iraq Project, the utopian dreams of Kanan Makiya, and how it now appears that no one in the current Administration has read Graham Greene’s The Quiet American or seen the movie, or to quote The Christian Science Monitor: of the 18 regime changes forced by the United States in the 20th century, only 5 resulted in democracy, and in the case of wars fought unilaterally, the number goes down to one — Panama.

    When Jerry Mohrlang (Malaysia 1965–67) went to Malaysia he was assigned to Sarawak and there discovered the little known story of James Brooke, an early 19th century English adventurer who eventually became the first white Rajah of the territory of Sarawak (currently the 14 states comprising the Federation of Malaysia). Since publishing Sarawak, his novel about Brooke, Jerry has received numerous emails from relatives of James Brooke, from relatives of administrators of the Brooke Rajahs, and from readers in Borneo. Mohrlang didn’t realize it at the time, but of the many books and articles that have been written about the era of the Brookes, his novel, Sarawak, is the only fictionalized account of the tumultuous period of history in northwest Borneo.

    Edward Mycue (Ghana 1961) is one of many RPCV poets who have written poems against the war. His and other anti-war poems can be read at the website: Mycue’s poem is entitled, “The Homeland Seduction.”

    Maureen Orth (Colombia 1964–66) appeared on the “Today Show” on March 4th to talk about her article on Michael Jackson that appeared in Vanity Fair.