About the Author

If MYSTICAL LAND OF MYRRH were a poem, I would likely finish it in a few hours … or a few weeks.

happy somali girls
Happy Somali Girls

If it were a business plan, I could whip that out in a few days … or a few weeks … something that I did for over a decade in the venture capital world.

If it were a web page, odds are that I would devote an hour or two to writing it before loading it up.

But MYSTICAL LAND OF MYRRH isn’t any of those things. It is an historical novel, a biographical novel. A very personal novel. That is why it took fifty years for the words to be set on paper; fifty years for me to focus my thoughts, prodded no doubt by the unfair, shattering bad press of the U.S. government when the president put Somalia on the “no entry” list, when the media told the stories of Black Hawk Down and the Somali pirates, with barely a sentence devoted to the Somali point of view. It was all so wrong, but I didn’t know how to make it “right”.

I hadn’t intended to write about Somalia, for I didn’t think I could. I sat down to write a children’s story about Francy, the Little Fairy, who cavorts with witches and Goddesses and elves. Yet when I looked up from my paper, the words were there:

The grand Goddesses played a fiery game of jacks, each tossing an apron full of iridescent bluewhiteyelloworange jacks across the pathway of the sky. The Milky Way sometimes glowed so brightly that I could read by its light, mesmerized by the miracle dancing overhead. Tonight the stars skipped between the clouds.

So what was I doing kneeling there in a muddy puddle, the rain obliterating any trace of the tears that tumbled down my face.

Somali woman at water faucet
Somali woman at water faucet

And I knew what I had to do. I had to tell the story of Somalia as I knew it, with all the warts and rainbows that I experienced. That was all I knew. It was real, and the story had to be told.

The story is unique. I was a lesbian in a strict Moslem country. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer when lesbians were “de-selected” from the Peace Corps. I was in Somalia as tensions grew just prior to the major elections of 1969 that set off the civil war that engulfed all of Somalia. I was there as an eager young adventurer, oblivious to the very real dangers that lurked behind so many bushes.

So a few months ago I set everything else aside to work on what is certainly the most important piece of writing in my entire career.

Basic Background

Education: Master of Library Science, California State University at San Jose;

Post-graduate work at Columbia University and University of California at Santa Cruz.

MaryAnn Shank in Baidoa
Me at our gate in Baidoa, at Omar Chicago’s compound, shortly after my arrival.

Primary Careers:

Research and Children’s Librarian

Research specialist, venture capital

Webmistress and coach

My entire life has been influenced by the two years I devoted to being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Baidoa, Somalia. I know full well that I learned more in those two years than my students ever could have.

A Few Honors

First Place Winner, 2011 Eco Challenge (Poetry)

Short listed, Llambda Literary Awards, Sausalito Sunrise

Publication of the Year, Small Business Journal, Target Marketing

Selected writer, We’Moon Date Book, 2015 and 2021

Featured contributor, Whiskey Hill blog

Featured contributor, Feminism and Religion blog

Featured contributor, Ashland.news