Across the vast steppe and mountain ranges, to fabled Silk Road cities, the Soviet rust belt and the futuristic architecture of Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, my offbeat memoir takes you to a remote, diverse and strategically vital region--the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. That jumble of countries whose names end in -stan: Stanland.
You'll meet teachers, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, journalists, cab-drivers and market sellers to learn about their history, culture and struggle to survive in the post-Soviet era. You'll enjoy the stories and landscapes, but be happy you skipped the dangerous flights and bad hotels.
“The ideal author to demystify the region and its people.” Library Journal.
“A genial travel guide … an academic who doesn’t write like an academic." Kirkus Reviews.
"Postcards from Stanland is strongest when it discusses the subtleties of national and ethnic identity, the lingering and often still strong political, cultural and personal relationship with Russia, and the way the past affects the present." The Asian Review of Books.
"With its rich depiction of life in Central Asia and authoritative yet accessible style, Postcards deserves a wide audience, from high school students to secretaries of state." Eurasianet.
"Part memoir, part tour guide, part commentary, it is a casual, hybrid book ... Its stylistic flexibility is a strength, allowing Mould to provide snapshots of ordinary life and bite-sized accounts of unusual encounters. His excitement and thrill in discovering a land about which so little is known, where geographical, cultural and even religious worlds collide, is evident." New Eastern Europe.
Read and hear excerpts at Travel Blogs from Asia and Africa and on
What inspired me to write the book? See The Writing of Postcards from Stanland
Will there be a second book? I hope so. I've started work on a new project that will describe travels in countries in and around the Indian Ocean--from Madagascar to Indonesia. No publisher yet, but I've started writing. See Monsoon Postcards. Or a Book in Search of a Title
Upcoming readings and presentations
April 13: Lakewood Public Library, Ohio
May 1, 7:00 p.m. Westerville Public Library, Meeting Room A, 126 South State St., Westerville, Ohio
October 17, 7:00 p.m. Old Worthington Library, 820 High St., Worthington, Ohio (jointly sponsored by Worthington International Friendship Association)
Central Asia has long stood at the crossroads of history. It was the staging ground for the rampaging armies of the Mongol Empire, for the 19th century "Great Game," the struggle between the Russian and British empires for geopolitical influence, and for the NATO campaign in Afghanistan. Today, multinationals and nations compete for natural resources, including the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea. Yet "Stanland" is still, to many, a terra incognita, a vast geographical blank. Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry struggled, famously creating the new country of "Kyrzakhstan."
I've traveled, worked and conducted research in Central Asia since the mid-1990s, trying to understand the changes that have taken place in the people's lives in the post-Soviet era. As I traveled, I made notes on everything from landscape, culture, history, politics, environment, media and universities to the challenges of communicating and staying warm. Recording first impressions was important because what struck me as interesting on first encounter would, after a week or two, seem commonplace. Every week or so, I assembled the notes—recorded in a cheap tetrad (school exercise book) from the bazaar or, less systematically, on napkins, credit card receipts, ticket stubs and pages ripped from airline magazines—and wrote a rambling e-mail letter to a growing circle of family, friends and colleagues. These letters were the inspiration for this book, documenting what I experienced while the memories were still fresh. I’ve also written op-eds, essays and features on Central Asia for the Christian Science Monitor, Times Higher Education, Transitions Online, The Montreal Review, and other print and online media. The book also draws on academic research and interviews on journalism and media. As such, it presents Central Asia from several perspectives, from the wide-angle views of geopolitics—the contest for political and economic power—to the close-ups of travel, work, eating, shopping, communicating and staying warm. It's not a travel guide, an academic study, or the kind of analysis produced by policy wonks, although it offers background and insights. Think of it as a series of scenes or maybe over-sized postcards that I might have sent to friends and family if the postal system in Central Asia had been reliable enough.
ADVENTURES IN MADAGASCAR
Since Fall 2014, I’ve made five visits to Madagascar as a member of a team conducting a social research project for UNICEF on socio-cultural determinants of behavior in maternal and child health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation and child protection in three regions. Our partners are the University of Antananarivo and Madagascar's National Institute for Statistics. I’ve spent time in the capital, Antananarivo (Tana), traveled to a national park famous for its lemurs, made a two-day trip southwest to the port of Toliara, and visited the Imerina region west of Tana. Read about my travels in Madagascar on Travel Blogs from Asia and Africa.
An academic volume co-edited with Yusuf Kalyango, Director of Ohio University’s Institute for International Journalism, was published by Palgrave/Macmillan in December 2014. Read the back story in "Cast Adrift: Adventures in Academic Editing" in Times Higher Education.