Staunton, VA – Library of Virginia Literary Award winning author of the short story collection What the Zhang Boys Know Clifford Garstang combines his international experience and Virginia roots in The Shaman of Turtle Valley (Braddock Avenue Books, May 14, 2019), which explores the healing of wounds —in families, nations, and landscape— and the challenges in bridging cultural gaps.

After graduating from college, Garstang spent two years in the Peace Corps teaching English in South Korea. His time abroad helped guide him into the practice of international law in the United States and overseas. Garstang has returned to Korea in his first novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley. He explores the collision of culture and family conflict, the lasting effects of warfare, and our universal need to heal from life’s greatest tragedies.

While stationed in Seoul, Garstang’s character Aiken Alexander gets a Korean girl pregnant and tries to make things right by marrying her and bringing her back to America, though their relationship is disapproved by both families. Garstang’s characters explore the mysteries of both Appalachian and Korean traditions, the need for conciliation in light of abuse and conflict, and tolerance through the lens of a man trying to keep his family together and maintain his morality.

Clifford Garstang is a former international lawyer and prize-winning author of the story collections, In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know, and editor of the anthology series, Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet. With degrees from Northwestern University, Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Garstang was an international lawyer in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Singapore and a legal reform consultant in Kazakhstan. Learn more at:



The Shaman of Turtle Valley
Clifford Garstang | May 14, 2019 | Braddock Avenue Books
ISBN: 978-1-7328956-0-9
Literary Fiction







In an interview, Clifford Garstang can discuss:

  • His time as a Peace Corps Volunteer and how America’s foreign relationships have changed since his time in Korea
  • His years working in legal reform and international development with the World Bank
  • How he views the current situation with North Korea
  • What he did to prepare himself to write fiction after a twenty-year career in international law
  • His writing process as he transitioned from writing short fiction to his first novel
  • How he mixes fictional elements with real-life places and people in order to establish a tangible sense of reality in his writing
  • His personal experiences with cultural collision as someone who has lived overseas many times
  • His many-year journey to publication and advice to emerging authors

CliffordGarstangAuthorPhotoAn Interview with Clifford Garstang

What do you hope readers take away from The Shaman of Turtle Valley?
I hope they will see the similarities between Korean and American values, especially the importance placed on family. But I also hope they’ll think about the importance of healing wounds and the need for redemption.

How has your background in international law and teaching English in a foreign country influenced your writing?
Living and working overseas definitely expanded my horizons in terms of the subject matter I explore as well as the kinds of characters who populate my fiction. Many writers treasure the learning in the process of writing, and I think that’s what global citizens have to do.

What memories of your time in the Peace Corps in Korea served you for the creation of this novel?
Because my time in Korea was my first international experience, everything was new and made an impression. For one thing, I found Korean society both friendly and closed at the same time, suspicious of outsiders. But I also found the history and culture fascinating, particularly my first exposure to Buddhism and Korea’s indigenous shamanistic practices.

In the future, what parts of the world would you like to incorporate in your fiction?
I’m currently working on a novel set in Singapore, where I lived for many years, and I’ve given some thought to a book set in China, where I visited many times during my legal work.