Guest Editor Shirley Lee

We continue our tenth anniversary celebration with writing from North Korea. In compiling our September 2003 issue, we discovered North Korean writers can publish only propaganda, and are restricted to official outlets.  As this opaque nation becomes more visible, and threatening, on the international stage, we turn for insight to the only writers free to tell the truth: defectors. From the safety of exile, Gwak Moon-an, Jang Jin-sung, Ji Hyun-ah, Kim Sung-min, Kim Yeon-seul, Lee Ji Myung, and Park Gui-ok document famine, corruption, and the soul-crushing pressure on writers to sacrifice art and individuality in the interest of promoting the state. We thank our guest editor, Shirley Lee, who provides an illuminating introduction. Our special section showcases writing in Swahili by Abdilatif Abdalla, Mwenda Mbatiah, and Ken Walibora.

New Swahili Writing


There’s a croc gliding smugly down the river.

The Wretched of Uhuru

Riuki was from the village, but he lacked village sense.

Poor Grandpa!

Where did you get a Somali child?

Book Reviews

Oleg Pavlov’s “Captain of the Steppe”

Pavlov skillfully navigates the razor-thin gap between dark comedy and tragedy, making the novel more humane and serious than many satires.

A Rice Story

Food bartered for your sister’s chastity.

A Blackened Land

The earth is dark, the sky is dark, and the people’s hearts are dark.

After the Gunshot

You can’t drink when you have the money on you.