Bill Hemminger (Senegal 1973-75), an African Son

Bill Hemminger (Senegal 1973-75) published African Son in April and will be reading from his book at Barnes & Noble Bookstore this Saturday, June 2, 2012, at 2 p.m. B&N is located at 624 S. Green River Road in Evansville, Indiana.

Today Bill is Chair of the English Department at the University of Evansville where he also teaches French, translates African writers, writes poetry, plays classic music, and  authored “Friend of the Family” that won the 1994 Syndicated Fiction Project competition sponsored by National Public Radio. This is his first book.

Bill started out in life by getting his B.A. from Columbia University. Next he studied piano at Juilliard in Manhattan, French at the Sorbonne, and then he went to Senegal. Later he got his Ph.D. in literature at Ohio University and followed that with Fulbrights to Madagascar and Cameroon.

Bill wrote me recently to say, “My memories from my Peace Corps years–a long time ago now–are vital and vivid and (mostly) wonderful.  I can now say with certainty that those years changed my attitudes and my look on life, in a good way.”

African Son is fifteen essays about Africa based on Bill years overseas. In her review of the book, Christine Djockoua Manyaka Toko, professor of American literature, University of Yaounde, writes, “The book skillfully blends honesty and realism: the author’s feelings and attitudes towards the people and the land, as well as his scathing satire of human flaws…. African Son is a great contribution to travel literature, African literature, and nature writing.”

In Senegal, Bill taught ESL in Dagana, a town in the north, and when he came home he went and lived for a dozen years in a log cabin in rural southern Ohio. During those years he and his wife supported a Senegalese friend–brother of former students–as the young man made his way through graduate school.

That “student” has worked with the United Nations now for more than 20 years. “Who could have imagined,” Bill writes, “that this skinny kid with tuberculosis might someday return to his country as a diplomat. Who could have imagined that the skinny kid from northern Ohio would teach school on the fringes of the Sahara.”

If you are driving through Evansville in southern Indiana this Saturday, June 2, (and aren’t we all, if only metaphorically) stop off at Barnes & Noble and hear Bill read at 2 p.m., and if you are not on the road, check out African Son on Amazon.

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