Review | FINDING MISS FONG by James A. Wolter (Malaya)


Finding Miss Fong
by James A. Wolter (Malaya 1961-63)
Atmosphere Press
382 pages
November 2023 (pre-order available)
$ 18.99 (paperback); $27.99 (hardcover); $8.99 (Kindle)


Reviewed by Sue Hoyt Aiken (Ethiopia 1962-64)


Based on the author’s own life, this novel will provide the reader with what a 22-year-old college graduate was thinking, doing and imagining at the turn of the decade just as President John F. Kennedy issued the first call for Peace Corps Volunteers.

Those of us of that generation may recall the excitement of a young charismatic President as well as First Lady, Jackie! At that moment in time there were no major world-wide military clashes involving the United States. Some of the boys might have enrolled in ROTC while students,  and were off to military training that unfortunately would put some on the road to Vietnam. But mostly it was a bright future.

Jim Wolter, at the behest of his family, was enrolled in medical school. But the Peace Corps

James A. Wolter (Malaysia 1962-66)

beckoned him as they were seeking secondary school biology teachers, among others, for places like Malaya. So off he went! This also required putting off his mother’s dream of him marrying Lolly!

Finding his way as a young, naïve international traveler, he encountered many
adventures, some devastating and others eye-opening to the wonders of another
culture and its traditions. And he met Miss Fong, “the most beautiful woman in the world.” The Peace Corps discouraged romantic entanglements for obvious reasons, but it changed his life forever, and that of Miss Fong as well.

This is the story of passion, cultural clashes, distant and prolonged relationships most RPCVs can relate to, especially in the early ’60s. We could not pick up the phone and call home, check the news instantly, seek help exactly when needed. We became independent thinkers and problem solvers, forever touched by what we saw, learned and experienced while living at the local level.

This story skips forward to let the reader know where the PC Volunteer’s life leads
him, a kid from Chicago, on this adventure. We enjoy his vivid descriptions of the
country, its people and strongly held traditions. The book, as so often books do,
catches the reader up in a compelling tale of adventure and resilience that is very
much alive in its telling!


Sue Hoyt Aiken (Ethiopia 1962-64) English teacher in Haile Selassie First Secondary School, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She dropped into a culture thousands of years old with her 21-year-old mind and sheltered life experience.  She often questioned whether or not it was helpful to expose eager youthful minds to what existed outside their country.  She came to love her brief two-year service in Ethiopia and the impact it, its people, culture, and beauty has had and continues to have on her. 


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