Joanna Catherine Scott


Name: Joanna Catherine Scott

Gender: Female (last time I checked)

Birthday: May 10

Hometown: Chapel HIll, NC

School: Adelaide and Duke


Degree: MA Philosophy

Occupation: Novelist/Poet



Groups: Black Socks Poets. With fiction I’m a hermit



“City of Thieves,” by David Benioff

“The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon,” by Tom Spanbauer

“The Ginger Tree,” by Oswald Wynd

“The Restraint of Beasts,” by Magnus Mills

“Tell Me How Long the Train Been Gone,” by James Baldwin


Seamus Heaney, Michael Frayn, Jeanette Winterson, Jerome Dyson Wright, Eric Larson, Helen Humphreys, Hilary Mantel, Richard Wright, Rainer Maria Rilke, Imre Kurtesz




Granny Smith apples

Horseradish Sauce

Travel Desinations:


Adrian, Michigan

Hurlock, Maryland


“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  --Desmond Tutu

“It is immoral not to tell.” --Albert Camus

“I have been frightened every single day of my life, but it’s never stopped me doing whatever I wanted.” --Georgia O’Keefe

“I would rather die than spend the rest of my life in prison for something I did not do.” --John Lee Conaway

Every story is a story about death. But perhaps, if we are lucky, our story about death is also a story about love.” -- Helen Humphreys

As Arthur Koestler is purported to have said: 

“Liking an author and then meeting the author 
is like liking goose liver and then meeting the goose.” 

   However, since I have been accused of being snooty because I have no personal data on my website, here is a brief summary of my life for those who like to know about such things: I was born during an air raid over London, raised in Australia by a mother who had been a stage and radio actress but got saved in a panic due to Mr. Hitler’s bombs and eventually became a Pentecostal preacher, exorcist and healer. 

    My father had a hand in raising me as well. As a young man, he took his degree in engineering from the University of Melbourne, then worked his way to England as a ship’s engineer, where he took up a post-graduate apprenticeship with Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester. When WWII broke out, he joined the British Royal Engineers (or Sappers), which went ahead of the army into France and Belgium. Later, he took over production of the Bailey Bridge, the “instant” bridge used by British and US troops all over Europe. Back in Australia, he went into the steam combustion engineering business, managing a company that built boilers for electric plants. He was a phlegmatic man and adored my mother to the end despite her proselytizing religious fervor. 

    I attended Lauriston, a snooty private girls’ school in Melbourne, then, moving with my father’s job, transferred into the public school system in Adelaide, where I was frightened into submission by grim faced spinsters wielding rulers. However, I did learn to read and write and spell, and went on to the University of Adelaide where I took an undergraduate Honours degree in Philosophy, and became a schoolteacher. I married, gave birth to three children, was turned on my head by the Women’s Revolution, lost my children in a divorce, and took the train across the great desert of Australia to Perth, where I tutored formal logic and British analytic philosophy at the University of Western Australia. 

   There I met a visiting PhD student from Duke who persuaded me that Duke was better than Oxford, so I gave up my scholarship and followed him to North Carolina, where I enrolled for a PhD in Philosophy, but decided the United States was too exciting to spend my life inside the walls of academia, so I settled for a Masters and went off adventuring in various jobs, eventually going to work for a consulting company that specialized in toxic and hazardous waste management and safety issues for electric plants. I spent several years living in a truck stop motel in the swamps of Louisiana, flying in on Sunday evening, flying out on Friday. 

   From there I went to work as a White House appointed Special Assistant for the National Emergency Preparedness Office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, DC. When my husband was appointed ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, we went to live in Manila, Philippines, where we were to witness the Peoples Power Revolution and the demise of the Marcos regime. 

  During this time, we were invited as official visitors to the Philippine Refugee Processing Center, three long hot hours’ drive north from Manila in the mountains of Bataan. This camp housed 17,000 souls from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam who had fled Communist persecution in their homelands. As we were leaving, I was given a painting of Vietnamese boat people on the high seas. At home in Manila, I turned it over to find the handwritten inscription: “A people forced to go a dangerous drama across feats of darkness and turbulent seas in favor of freedom.” I stood and wept. 

Marine Corps Ball, Manila, 1984

 The next day I went back to the camp looking for the artist. Listening to his story, I was hooked, and spent the next two years sitting in the dust with these people taking down their stories. Although they were from different countries, and different areas of different countries, the one thing they had in common was a fervent passion for freedom that overwhelmed their mourning for a lost country. “When I come to the freedom country . . .” was a phrase I heard time after time.

From their stories my first book was born, Indochina’s Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I have been writing ever since, and all my books have been inspired by the true stories of the voiceless. 

   In Manila, I also worked at an abandoned babies home, and eventually we adopted three Korean orphans, came back to the US, raised them with many delights and traumas, and now live in Chapel Hill where I am engaged in new adventures as novelist, poet, and now advocate for justice.

    Going back to my lost children: I was reunited with them when they were older, and my Caucasian daughter now lives in Sarasota, Florida, with her husband. One son lived here in the US for ten years or so, but has now gone back to Adelaide, where he lives near his older brother, a home town boy who never could get his mind around the US, and who, consequently, I see very rarely. 

 When I first came to the US, I cried for my children every night. After two years of this, my husband said, “Stop it! Stop!” So I stopped. Since then, everything I have done, every book I have written, has been a sort of recompense. In 2006, I set out to write the story of an African American young man, one of the innocents on Death Row in Raleigh. His name at the time was John Lee Conaway but is now John Lee Scott. He is the same age as my Australian sons and I have adopted him as my seventh child. His story opened my eyes to the plight of the poor black man entangled on our so-called justice system and we have been fighting for his freedom ever since.