Everywhere Stories Contributor Spotlight: Jeanne D’Haem

Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small PlanetVolume III is now available for pre-order. Like the earlier volumes, this book includes 20 short stories by 20 writers set in 20 countries. Jeanne D’Haem’s story is set in Somalia.

 

Jeanne D’Haem was a Peace Corps volunteer in Somalia, East Africa. She served as an English and math teacher in Arabsiyo and Hargeisa. She taught adult education classes and sponsored the first Girl Guide troop in Hargeisa. She was a director of special services and a special education teacher in New Jersey and Massachusetts. She has published three prize-winning books and numerous journal articles. The Last Camel, (1997) published by The Red Sea Press, Inc. won the Peace Corps Paul Cowin prize for non-fiction. Desert Dawn with Waris Dirie (2001) has been translated into over twenty languages. It was on the best-seller list in Germany for over a year where it was awarded the Corine prize for non-fiction. Her most recent book, Inclusion: The Dream and the Reality in Special Education won the Editors’ Special Award for Peace Corps Writers in 2017. She is an emeritus professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

Comment on “The Promise”: I joined the Peace Corps to help people and was posted to Northern Somalia, now known as Somaliland. However, most Somalis did not consider me to be at all helpful. When I cried in frustration about this to my friend, Asha, she told me, “Listen and watch, listen and watch. When you finally think that you understand, do not say anything, because you don’t. You need to listen and watch some more. You cannot speak until you have learned to listen.” She pointed to her mother pounding grain in the courtyard of the house and continued, “Somali women see the world through the veil of their experiences. You cannot communicate with them until you understand where they are coming from.” Asha Muktal had lived in London for many years with her father who was a Somali diplomat. She understood better than anyone else the discrepancies between the Somali view of the world and mine. I wrote this story about a neighbor in my village. She came to live next door to me as a very unhappy young wife, making me furious about arranged marriages and the Somali practice of infibulation. However, over the next few months, I watched as she and her husband fell in love. Gradually, even I learned that you must look carefully in order to see the fragile beauty of the desert and the resourceful people who grace the land. If you are not mindful you may not recognize what is there, and you may even upset the delicate system that succeeds in the remorseless desert.

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