Mark D. Diehl

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Mark D. Diehl grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, living with his unstable mother, who exhibited signs of borderline personality disorder. He had no father or siblings in the house, and it took him a long time to figure out that his childhood was abnormal. By age twelve, he had a seething contempt for authority, and his heroes were criminals. Despite failing classes in junior high and high school, he managed to attend and graduate from the University of Iowa. 

It was clear to Mark that he wasn’t the type to work his way up through the ranks in a company, but without money or family support it was unlikely that he could start a successful business of his own. Thinking that South Korea’s growing economy might present some opportunities, he took a job teaching English there, and met Jennifer, a local Korean woman who would later become his wife. Their interracial relationship elicited harassment and abuse for a year before Jennifer’s influential family found out they were dating and chased them out of the country trying to recapture her, and this story is now the subject of Mark’s memoir, “Stealing Cinderella: How I Became an International Fugitive for Love.” Returning with Jennifer to the United States, Mark attended law school at the University of Iowa College of Law and practiced as a litigator in Chicago for several years. Eventually he quit the law and returned to graduate school for creative writing at the University of Chicago, working on books he hoped would help preserve the American respect for independence and individual free will. His award-winning dystopian science-fiction trilogy "Seventeen" is set in an Asian-style social hierarchy after the world’s supply of natural resources has been exhausted. He and Jennifer currently live in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Find out more about their life and Mark’s other writing at



BY Mark D. Diehl • POSTED ON Oct. 7, 2019

A dystopian novelist turns his attention to a memoir, recounting the 18 months he lived in South Korea.

In 1993, 23-year-old University of Iowa graduate Diehl (The Book of Wanda, 2018, etc.) accepted a position at SNM Academy in Taegu (now known as Daegu), South Korea, teaching English to adults. SNM had nine levels of classes, 101 through 109. There was also a Junior Academy for younger students. At the junior school, the author met Jennifer, a beautiful, young Korean woman who captured his heart. She was a Taegu native teaching English there. Their relationship—first one of friendship, then love—broke Korean social norms and put them in great danger. She was the middle child and, worse, the second daughter of a wealthy, professional family. “I was a disappointment to them the day I was born,” she told Diehl. Within the family, her needs were subservient to those of her older sister and younger brother. Combining the drama and excitement of a novel with some sociological commentary, the author offers both a tender love story and an eye-opening depiction of Korean values, restrictions, and strengths in the early ’90s. As a white man, he was viewed with suspicion, which turned into outright hostility whenever he was seen walking or dining with Jennifer. Through re-creations of classroom dialogue with his most advanced students, the 109s, Diehl deftly highlights various aspects of Korean social stratification. One student explained: “Men are different. To men, most important is respect. Way to get respect is to be a manager. When every man is manager and every woman is mother, then everyone is happy.” After Jennifer’s parents discovered she was dating an American, threatening to disgrace the family, they beat her mercilessly. Here the narrative turns from being intriguing and at times lighthearted to gripping, as under the cover of darkness and with contrived documentation, the couple fled to Hong Kong and later the United States.

An engrossing, poignant, and often disturbing adventure; loaded with historical and cultural details about the Korean Peninsula.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2019

Page count: 368pp

Publisher: Fencetree Press

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2019


The Book of Eadie: Volume One of the Seventeen Trilogy

Corporations control all of the world’s diminishing resources and all of its governments, dividing the world into two types of people: those who unquestioningly obey, and those who die. Most of the world’s seventeen billion humans are unconscious, perpetually serving their employers as part of massive brain trusts. The ecosystem has collapsed, naturally growing plants have been declared illegal, and everything from food to housing to medicines must be synthesized from secretions of genetically modified bacteria. Only corporate ambulatory workers can afford patented synthetic food, and non-corporates fight for survival in the city’s sprawling, grotesquely violent ghetto known only as the Zone. Nineteen-year-old waitress Eadie challenges the hierarchy when she assists a bedraggled alcoholic known as the Prophet, drawing massive social-control machinery into play against her. The Prophet predicts she’s the general who will lead a revolution, and a few desperate souls start listening. How can she and her followers possibly prevail when she’s being hunted by a giant corporation and the Federal Angels it directs?
Published: Oct. 28, 2013
ISBN: 978-0692157695

The Book of Wanda: Volume Two of the Seventeen Trilogy

When Corporations own everything that humans need to stay alive, your company is your home, your food source, your school, and your hospital. It supplants your friendships, your religion, and even your family. Leaving the corporation means forfeiting it all, and those who remain inside refer in whispers to the Departed, those who have been cast out. The Book of Wanda's narrative winds like DNA around that of the Book of Eadie, sharing some of its timeline and overlapping it at key events. Wanda, a dedicated laboratory worker and mother, is forced out of Amelix Integrations and dumped on the streets with other Departed. Like all corporate ambulatory workers, she has been engineered, educated, and conditioned for corporate compliance, but how can that background help her survive the Zone's violent anarchy? Organizations grow ever larger, even in the Zone. As armies clash around her, Wanda begins to understand how vulnerable a lone individual can be. She is swept into the heart of the conflict and finds herself present at the most important incident in all of human evolution.