Who is Karin McQuillan? (Senegal)
Karin McQuillan (Senegal 1972) writes,
I was looking for a new hobby to balance out my work as a psychotherapist. I was an avid mystery reader, and I had two subjects I very much wanted to write about – Africa and wildlife. I’d been in the Peace Corps, and just come back from a wildlife safari, which was a joyful experience, and thought it would be fun to put all those things together. My only problem was that I had never written anything and didn’t have a clue how to write a mystery – so first I had to learn how to write.
I was in the Peace Corps in West Africa, and then went to Kenya three times on safari. I read hundreds of books on Africa – culture, history, wildlife, anthropology, fiction. And I subscribed to the Nairobi daily paper, to get detailed local color. As a result, I had Americans who actually do live in Kenya ask me how many years I lived there. I’ve had an outfitter ask me how long I was an outfitter. The best compliment – a Kikuyu medical student who read my books wrote a complimentary letter asking, ‘How do you understand us so well?
The facts about Africa in my book are as accurate as I can make them — I actually had the last three books fact-checked by Lynn Leakey, an American safari guide who married into the famous Leakey family in Kenya, who became a great fan of the series.
I emailed Karen for her comments but have not heard back from her.
Deadly Safari (An African Wildlife Mystery – Book 1)
Elephants’ Graveyard (An African Wildlife Mystery – Book 2)
Cheetah Chase (An African Wildlife Mystery – Book 3)
Fossil: Murder in the Serengeti (An African Wildlife Mystery – Book 4)
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I think the series of four books was published over time beginning in 1991 and ending with the last in 2015. From what I read on Amazon, the first book, Deadly Safari, got fantastic reviews from famous mystery writers. McQuillin also has written a series of columns for American Thinker. I would characterize her opinions, from the titles, as very, very “conservative” and anti-Obama.
There is an interview with Omnimystery which she gave to Amazon in which I think she paints a different take on her African Peace Corps experience. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/Karin-McQuillan/e/B00IQT52I2/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1516423594&sr=1-2-ent
The interview is on the far left side of the page.
I would not buy her books. I do not respect her opinions.
How do McQuillan’s statements offend? Ones in her interview seem descriptive to me.
Are they deliberately or carelessly false, factual statements?
Or are they opinions that violate your taste?
Her interview does not seem very conservative or other kind of ideonological, nor does it include anything anti-Obama.
If she is truly a Brandeis graduate, her coming off as conservative shatters a stereotype.
Joanne’s comment about McQuillan’s opinions was not based on the interview but on her written piece on a very conservative website, and on the titles of her 178 other printed pieces, which evince a strongly anti-Obama, pro-Trump stance. So McQuillan does have a clear ideological position, regardless of where she went to college almost 50 years ago.
The problem with stereotypes (as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her TED talk on this topic) is not that they are false, but that tell only part of the story. If I said (truthfully and accurately) that everyone I’d ever met who went to Brandeis was a liberal, that would be a factual statement. If I told all my friends, on the basis of my experience, that everyone from Brandeis was a liberal, I would be making an unallowable generalization. If my friends and I then met conservatives from Brandeis and refused to change our views (“they’re the exception” or “they’re not really from Brandeis” or “she can’t really be a conservative, she’s from Brandeis”) that would be stereotyping.
(By the way, as far as I know, I have never met anyone who attended or taught at Brandeis.)
The objection to McQuillan’s piece is that she translates her personal experience of nearly 50 years ago into a stereotype about an entire nation, and tries to make us accept that as the authoritative message about their culture. Further, it’s that she is doing so in an effort to close our minds as well as our borders against other people–not on the basis of who they are as individuals, but on the basis of what she says we should assume about them, given where they are from.
That’s against my principles.
She probably wouldn’t respect yours either. I have spent time in those countries and had the same experiences. Andnow you can go to Oakland and San Francisco and find areas with as much defication and urination in the streets, along with the needles and pads. You are naive and bigoted and would benefit by a stint in the Peace Corps. God Bless You
Most people who post here have served in the Peace Corps. Have you?
That is your prerogative. Thank God, we can still make those choices here in America.
Have you heard a response from Karin?
I am new to her writing, just reading her for the first time today, but she is an amazingly clear, easy to read and understand writer, and I feel such a kinship to her. Never having the experiences she has had, I realize how small my world is and how protected I’ve been, how much I’ve missed…. and yet have had a busy and fulfilling lifetime of 70 years. There is so much more. I, unlike the last commenter, am a conservative patriotic American and I will buy her books. I do respect her opinions. Please keep us posted if you hear from her.
I am going to reply to your comment because I believe I may be the last commenter to which you refer. I am not the person to whom Karin McQuillan would reply. I am sure that John Coyne will post any response from Karin McQuillan if she chooses to respond.
I consider myself patriotic, as the daughter of a career military combat veteran who served our country and who was proud of my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Karin McQuillan appears to really like Africa and African culture in the comments posted here and those on Amazon. Those comments are in stark contrast to what she posted in the article on American Thinker. I personally don’t know which McQullan to believe. She served in Senegal some 46 years ago and cited that experience now to justify a political position denigrating the country in which she served. I disagree with that. These are reasons I don’t respect her opinions and I won’t buy her books.
I too wrote about Peace Corps experience in South America. I learned to respect the women with whom I worked. You might want to read it. Here is the link:
Thank you for letting me explain my position.
If Senegal was so dirty she wouldn’t have lived there for so long. She portrayed a very inaccurate image of that country, just to beg for Trump’s sympathy and that’s what’s pathetic. She can’t take an example of an unadvanced village and display it as an advertisement to a whole country. If it was the case, anyone could say that “America is a racist country where blacks are regularly killed by cops, with a racist president who assaulted women several times, and where terrorism remains”
She didn’t live there very long. She says in her rant that she “was proud to donate a year” of her life. I expect she got kicked out. I hope so.
Finally a well thought out answer.
I agree with you and your statement is fairly correct at the end. This country is being portrayed as you say.
It would seem that one could both love many aspects of a culture and still see serious problems with that same culture. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We hosted an exchange student from Senegal a couple of years ago. He was a wonderful and very smart young man from a village there. Many of the things that she talks about in her AT article were things that he touched on in our conversations. He loves his country and culture and (extended) family, but wants to be in America long term. If places like Senegal are ever going to improve some of their deficiencies, they will need young men like him to get their education and then go back and make the changes.
It is interesting to see your service in Columbia provides you such insight to Africa.
I didn’t serve in the Peace Corps, but in my 23 years in the US Navy I managed to travel around the world, literally. I might have done the Peace Corps, but in the 1960s you had to have a college education and I couldn’t afford college.
I did spend a year in Viet Nam (that’s the proper spelling) and saw similar traditions there, people would go into the fields to defecate. There were other countries where that was quite normal. So, I’m not naive or uneducated, I went to college after I retired from the Navy.
Just because you were in the Peace Corps for 2 years doesn’t mean you know everything. But the truth about your rant is obvious, you believe that Ms. McQuillan is a Conservative and possibly a Trump Supporter, so you will attack her and anything she says without either provocation or reservation, much less any evidence to the truth of your accusations.
I haven’t read her books, I was researching a post on Facebook before I allowed it to be posted on one of the groups I am an Admin for. Since I don’t suffer Trump Derangement Syndrome I had to reply to your obviously TDS-fueled assault.
Some other things you said ring a cautionary note, like the ignorant idea that all colleges taught Marxist crap 40-50 years ago, they did not. I know, I was around then. In fact very few colleges taught the crap they teach today.
Grow up, it is obvious from your remarks that you have not lived in truly bad areas nor have you seen the riots and assaults of the communist groups in foreign countries.
Here is a much better story then mine about Peace Corps and it happens in Africa. Ann Moore was a skilled nurse who was a pioneer Peace Corps Volunteer. She and her husband went to Togo in 1962. She was so impressed by the way that African mothers carried their babies, that when she came home and became a mother, she invented the Snugli.
Here is a link to her story: http://invention.si.edu/innovative-lives-protecting-precious-cargo-ann-moore
I came to this website by Googling Karin McQuillan’s name after reading her vile opinion piece published in the American Thinker last week. If this website is aiming to describe who Karin McQuillan is, I would suggest copying her words from that piece as they are in stark contrast to her rosy description of Africa above. I, like others in the comments, do not believe people will want to be giving her their business and in order to be a fully informed consumer, one must know Karin McQuillan’s additional opinions.
I came here the same way as you. The vile article in “American Thinker” came up on my google news stream and I was stunned by it. Then I read the comments to the article and realized the magazine was a right wing propaganda diatribe, and not a serious news or commentary periodical. The commenters on the McQuillan piece there are almost universally racist morons, one after the other. It then occurred to me that McQuillan might not be an actual person who served in the Peace Corps, and all the claims about Senegal (and her claim about what she saw in Paris) might be invented nonsense, so I googled to see what might come up and found this. I dont know if the person who wrote that ignorant trash is the same person who wrote these books. I havent read these books and cant comment on them. Whoever wrote the American Thinker piece is a racist fool.
Do you challenge any of her descriptions? Relativism is deeply rooted in anthropology and Peace Corp. philosophy. That is a good thing and a bad thing.
I challenge the “cherry picking” of a few examples from one place 46 years ago to politically support a racial rant by the current occupant of the white house that denigrates not a village, but an entire continent.
“Relativism is deeply rooted in anthropology and Peace Corp. philosophy.” Peace Corps philosphy begins with the mission statement : “To promote world peace and friendship.”
When I studied Anthropology in graduate school, the mandate was “objectivity” , not “relativism”.
So I challenge you on both those accounts.
I don’t know who you are, John. I don’t know your experience with Peace Corps or when and how you studied Anthropology. I would really be interested in knowing. Thanks.
Joanne Roll RPCV
This website did post information about the American Thinker piece. I certainly agree with you. This article, which was posted on this website, also has many comments from RPCVs.
Here is the link:
My daughter is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal and we had the opportunity to visit her last month. She and her fellow PCVs are doing good things and making connections in villages and towns across the country. Her host family and entire village of about a hundred were gracious and shared whatever they had with us. Her village is working hard to improve the lives of their citizens and is implementing new farming techniques to deal with the paucity of rain. Senegal has infrastructure and societal issues of any developing country but the people were helpful, artistic, industrious, musical and generous . I can only think that Karin did not open her mind to other ways of living and imposed her first world expectations upon Senegalese folks. She did not complete her two year assignment in Peace Corps-that says something. She spent a year in Senegal and took some tourist trips and that makes her an expert on Africa-I think not. I will not be reading her books and wish I had never read her slanted and one sided article about Peace Corps in Senegal.
Thank you so much for posting about your daughter. I hope that she and the people in her village and in Senegal know that they have the support and respect of millions of Americans. Your visit to her was also part of creating friendship. Now, more than ever, her work demonstrating the real American values is so important.
Karin McQuillan was in Senegal in 1972 for a year with doctors who had spent years trying to make a difference.
Your daughter is there now (2018) trying to make a difference.
Doesn’t that, in and of itself, set off a giant red flare? That 46 years later, people are still trying to help the Senegalese?
Sorry to burst your egalitarian bubble, but under that premise alone, there’s no reason to doubt a word of what Karen stated in her piece.
Lesotho has recently had their own Karin McQuillan.
I hope Trump doesn’t make her the next Peace Corps Director, but i could see it.
This woman says she spent a year in the Peace Corps in Senegal, so she either quit or (I suspect) got kicked out. Her use of the Peace Corps name to legitimate her racist rant on “American Thinker” should be enough to get her publicly booted from any place where PCVs or RPCVs would encounter her.
You have done nothing to encourage a meaningful conversation in a critical time! Your confusion, one that you share with the individual who sits in the White House, between the people who live in these countries and the countries themselves is reprehensible! A little study on the history of the African continent might enlighten your reductionist understanding and enable a conversation that includes a more expansive understanding of complex problems.
This country is at a moral crossroads. The President’s narrative is destructive and divisive.
Karin McQuillan has written one of the best articles I have seen in a long time,
Having lived and traveled as a European in many countries (including Senegal) on all continents I can only admire how she has captured with clarity the essence of a country and its people.
Karin McQuillan has written one of the best articles I have seen in a long time,
Having lived and traveled as a European in many countries (including Senegal) on all continents, I can only admire how she has captured with clarity the essence of a country and its people. She honestly and accurately describes the environment she lived in and she points out the differences between cultures.
Karin McQuillan has written one of the best articles I have seen in a long time.
Having lived and traveled as a European in many countries (including Senegal) on all continents, I can only admire how she has captured with clarity the essence of the place and the people where she lived. She honestly and accurately describes the environment and she points out the differences between cultures.
Sorry for the triple posting – I had just tried to amend the first post.
I worked for 6 months in Dakar, Senegal during grad school and served in Zaire for 4 years in the Peace Corps and I cannot express how much I was troubled by the negative portrayal of the people of Senegal and Africa in general. Despite the lack of services that the governments of both countries provided in the form of water distribution, people held cleanliness in high regard. McQuillan should be called out for the racist that she is and all her books boycotted. Nick – Peace Corps, Zaire 1987-1991
It is amazing and sad to me how American elitists, devoid of compelling arguments, quickly gang up to attack the character of anyone who disagrees with their world view. They have made the term “racist” entirely meaningless because it is universally applied with equal spite to those few who harbor hatred in their hearts for fellow human beings, and to those many who love mankind, but who are concerned about areas of conflict in values and priorities between distinct cultures. Is it not possible that people of good will could disagree with them?
First, I think it is lovely that from her “euphoric” Peace Corp experience that she “loves and treasures” our country. That’s precisely what living abroad is all about – putting your life in a more global perspective.
But coming to her conclusions takes some outrageous contortions- particularly as she appears to base all of her conclusions on her experiences 47 years ago. In the 10 years I’ve been coming to Senegal ( as a social entrepreneur and as a film producer for the highly acclaimed made in Senegal film Tall as the Baobab Tree) the changes have been visible and dramatic!
And this is happening in a country that only gained its independence 58 years ago! At that point in American’s history we were immersed in the bloodiest chapters in American history.In comparison, during Senegal’s short history it has earned the reputation of the region’s safest and stable countries and long held traditions such as early marriage and FGM (female genital mutilation) for a minority (though significant enough) number of young girls are ending without the blood and core of our Civil War.
Is the Senegalese reality different from ours? Of course.
This is a developing country and if they can’t pay – they do die. (But then, our wealthy country has callously created thousands of uninsured citizens and we have a political system that is currently dismantling our first attempts at universal health care.) This fact is a large factor in what makes the Senegalese ideas about family so different than ours. Their extended family is their safety network – a network that is needed in a poor country such as this.
One earns money to help family who will, in turn, help you if you need it. Of course, this dilutes what any one person might retain and it does indeed translate into an overall greater distribution of money amongst more people. But is the USA’s current distorted gap between 1% and everyone else a clear improvement?
There have been many observations about the impact of international aid so the writer’s observation that “African problems are made worse by our efforts” is not patently outrageous. as many would agree. But what the writer conveniently ignores is that Senegal is France’s # 1 trading partner providing an enormous market for French goods and services and Francophone literature and media. A very profitable market relationship conveniently tied to France’s foreign aid agreements with Senegal and one that many economists have argued is to Senegal’s detriment.
The writers’ argument about defending our heritage is curious as our history books clearly reveal that much of our heritage was built on the backs of slaves coming from West Africa. And, as international migration has arguably become the model of social advancement, the USA reaps the benefits of the smartest and most capable of Senegalese and African society whose success and contributions to the USA are well documented. This writer’s 47 year old evidence defends us from … what?
What a good commentary. Thank you so much,
Joanne, Thank you so much. It meant the hour or so it took me to write this was worth it.
One reason I distrust the piece by Karin McQuillan in “American Thinker” is that it came out a few days after the President of the U.S. called several nations “shithole countries,” and her piece talks of widespread public defecation and dried fecal matter everywhere. That’s too neat and tidy: it strikes me as an attempt to repackage the original statement in a more palatable and seemingly objective way for a wider, less crude audience.
Another reason I distrust it is that it uses the propaganda playbook. While seemingly using the language of affection and respect, it makes sweeping generalizations about entire countries and religions based on one village several decades ago. It says that ugly behaviors (cruelty, corruption, betrayal) are baked into an entire culture. It portrays “our” culture in the most flattering possible light and “theirs” as a danger to ours. And finally it warns against too much understanding, acceptance, respect, or outreach towards Those Scary People Over There.
These tactics have been used to incite fear and violence for thousands of years. When I see them used against rural white American Christians, I fight back. When I see them used against black African Muslims, I fight back. Most of us know enough to fight back when we see them used against Jews, but do we recognize what we’re being sold when someone else is the target?
I reject any stance that says that trying to understand and value other cultures is the road to disaster. To me, the road to disaster is paved with stones that say Fear and Avoid Those Other People. It’s hard to pick my way around them sometimes.
Thank you Elise, I agree with your analysis. My wife and I taught maths and science at St Andrews College in Tanzania in 1965-6 as Australian Volunteers Abroad – very like the PC. We had accommodation provided but were on African salaries.
The people were wonderful and the students very keen to learn. We and our 3 children were healthier over there than we were in Australia [but had to take precautions of course]. In fact our 4th child was born in Dar es Salaam with few problems.
If the conditions were as described in the original article, I doubt she could have survived. It doesn’t pass what Australians call the “pub test”.