Tim Schell (CAR 1978–79) taught English in the town of M’Baiki and would write about it in his novel, The Drums of Africa (2007). He won the Mammoth Book Award for that book.
He is also the co-author of Mooring Against the Tide: Writing Fiction and Poetry (Prentice Hall, 2007) and the co-editor of the anthology A Writer’s Country (Prentice Hall, 2001). His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and he was the winner of the Martindale Award for Long Fiction. Today he teaches literature and writing at Columbia Gorge Community College in Hood River, Oregon. His new book, The Memoir of Jake Weedsong, was a 2010 Finalist for the AWP Award for the Novel. It has just come out from Serving House Books.
The Memoir of Jake Weedsong is about Jake and Estuko Weedsong who are living a bucolic life on their vineyard in rural Oregon. Having been forced out of academia, Jake spends his days working on a memoir, much of it comprised of his years living and teaching in Japan where he married Etsuko some twenty years earlier, married her three times on the same day, in fact.
As the novel opens, Jake and Etsuko have been attacked by three skinheads in Portland. The three boys are found guilty of a hate crime, and at the sentencing hearing Etsuko convinces the judge that a prison sentence will only further reduce the boys’ humanity. Instead, Etsuko would like the boys sentenced to a traditional Japanese dinner at her house where they will be dressed in kimonos and immersed in Japanese culture. While Jake finds Etsuko’s plan to teach the boys to empathize naïve, he reluctantly acquiesces, and the dinner date is set. In attendance will be Oregon’s poet laureate Gunnar Hoagard and his wife Karla, Jake and Etsuko’s daughter Elin, and Etsuko’s parents who are visiting from Japan.
Two Japanese women, Etsuko and her mother, work with fervor in their preparation of a feast where three of the honored guests are racist boys. This is the story of love and friendship and of the food that nurtures the greatest hopes and desires that hate can be overcome.