The Wall Street Journal asked 50 of 2014’s most influential people for their book picks. Kaci Hickox, a Doctors without Borders nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, selected Lost Girl Found, and this is what she had to say about it. (You may remember Kaci Hickok as the nurse who refused Ebola quarantine in Maine and New Jersey.)
Although this year seemed to be filled with oldies but goodies, at the top of my list of new books is Leah Bassof and Laura DeLuca ’s (Kenya 1987–89) “Lost Girl Found.” Having read many books about the “lost boys” of Sudan, this was a refreshing piece of fiction highlighting the struggles and triumphs of a young female Sudanese refugee. Poni, the main character, describes her life of extremes, saying: “When I dance, I can jump out of my pain for just a moment.”
Here’s an excerpt from my May 30, 1014 interview with Laura.
How did this novel Lost Girl Found come about?
When I met the young South Sudanese men in the U.S. in 2001 I wanted to welcome them to Boulder and I felt that understood something about the cross-cultural shock they were experiencing. At first my connection was as an ally and volunteer; later I started to read more about their history and even teach about their refugee experience as the largest group of unaccompanied minors in the history of U.S. refugee resettlement. In my anthropology classes, I assigned books and films about their experience including God Grew Tired of US; Nuer Journeys; Nuer Lives, the Lost Boys of Sudan documentary and Dave Eggers’ What is the What.
These books and films largely focused on the boys and noted that only 89 girls were resettled while 4,000 boys were resettled. My students - especially the females - wanted to know “what happened to the girls” so I started to explore this and learned even more when young women began to arrive. I wrote several anthropological articles about the group and in collaboration with Sudanese. I knew I wanted to write a book eventually but not a traditional ethnography or anthropological description so I decided to collaborate with a professional writer.
What is your connection with Leah Bassoff, your co-author?
My original connection with Leah is through her parents who were volunteers with the Sudanese community especially the Lost Boys when they first came to Denver and then Boulder in 2001.
I met her at a conference on Sudanese women in Denver; when I learned that Leah also wanted to write a book about the Lost Girls I was drawn to working with her because she is talented writer and I believed that she could help shape the material in a way to make the story more compelling than a typical anthropology work and would appeal to a broader audience.
Leah also used to work as an editor at Penguin Press so her connections with the publishing/agent world in New York were a big contribution.
When you are not in Africa, what are you doing?
I live in Boulder Colorado and teach anthropology and direct of the Global Seminar Tanzania at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I am also the mother of two sons - Charlie and Simon. I also love to hike, do yoga, and play in the Colorado snow whether by snowshoeing skiing, hiking or snowboarding. We get a lot of snow in Colorado.
Thank you Laura for your time and your book and for all your great work in Africa.
Asante Sana (Kiswahile for “Thank you alot,”) John, for letting the Peace Corps community know about Lost Girl Found.