Namibia, Africa, Peter Orner's first novel, "The Second Coming
of Mavala Shikongo" (Little, Brown and Company, 2006), introduces
readers to the inhabitants of Goas, "an all-boys boarding school
so far in the veld even the baboons feel sorry for [them]."
Orner, an assistant professor of creative writing, drew inspiration
from his experience teaching in the same remote setting in the early
1990s. He based the central character, Mavala Shikongo, on two real-life
female teachers who were combat veterans of Namibia's long war for independence.
San Francisco writer Dave Eggers calls Shikongo "one of the most
deftly rendered and unforgettable characters in recent fiction. The
men of Goas fall in love with her and the reader is helpless, too."
In April, following the book's publication, Orner was named a 2006 Guggenheim
Fellow. His previous honors include the Pushcart Prize and the Rome
Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Orner's writing
has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review and
"The Best American Short Stories."