Creative Nonfiction Writer
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
I am a world wanderer from a small town in Southern Ontario, Canada. I lived and worked around the world for 45 years as a teacher, filmmaker, multi-media producer, writer, and program manager. In 2015, after settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, I started to write about my experiences in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and more recently, Russia. Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah is my first book in the memoir genre. Check out my blog for book events and news.
Winner, 2019 NM-AZ Book Awards
Finding Myself in Borneo wins the 2019 NM-AZ Award, Biography–Other category. McKee’s book is an honest, buoyant chronicle of a young Canadian man’s adventures during 1968–70, while teaching secondary school as a CUSO volunteer in Sabah, Malaysia.
Travel on his journey through vibrant Asian cultures as he learns the craft of teaching, the Malay language and local customs, and makes many friends in his small community. He climbs the highest peak in Southeast Asia—Mount Kinabalu—has a love affair, and navigates Borneo’s backwaters to make his first of many documentary films. McKee travels by freighter to Indonesia, where he discovers the scars of that country’s recent genocide, a contrast to his hilarious motorcycle journeys in Sabah with his American Peace Corps buddy. They make a hallucinogenic discovery—North Borneo is, indeed, J. R. R. Tolkien’s famed Middle-Earth of The Lord of the Rings! The enterprising duo establish the North Borneo Frodo Society (NBFS), an organization Tolkien joins. McKee’s return trips
are poignant reminders of the value in cultural exchange.
Praise for Finding Myself in Borneo
“Neill McKee takes us on an extraordinary journey to Borneo and other parts of Asia…. He shares with us the perplexing, frustrating, humorous, and personally rewarding experiences of a young man adventuring out from the childhood home in rural Ontario to discover a world thousands of miles away.”
—★★★★★ Barnes & Noble review
“Neill is totally honest about his experiences, ranging from learning to teach in a foreign environment to learning about life in general and indeed learning about love in particular. His interpretations of the people and religion, politics and culture come from a positive and open mind, and a willingness to embrace a new ethos.”
“Neill McKee's work takes us on a true adventure. His keen observations of North Borneo re-imagine a time and place via a unique journey. McKee's writing stirs the imagination and simultaneously explains a place less traveled. His eye and ear for startling detail and understanding of political dimensions make this work a fascinating and eye-opening. ”
—Diane Thiel, author and professor, University of New Mexico
“Honest and thought-provoking memoir…. Finding Myself in Borneo is full of stories of love, uneasiness, and pure joy.”—★★★★★ San Francisco Book Review
“A delightful book. Neill McKee mixes his memories of teaching in Sabah in the late 60’s with historical, geographical and political anecdotes about the area.…His love for Sabah and its very diverse population shines through in his writing. Returning years later he meets with a number of his students and confirms that, indeed, his years of teaching in Kota Belud made a difference.”
—★★★★★ Amazon Review
“McKee’s work proves the notion that every journey is undertaken at least as much through the inner world as it is through the outer. From the vast open spaces of Canada to the jungles of Borneo, and from youth through the straits of teaching, traveling, and growing, McKee takes us on a Motorcycle Diaries-type-journey as written by a man who would become an artist, an expert in international development, and a father. And just as our first love is the one that lays the groundwork for the loves that follow, the world that we follow McKee through—almost like ghosts floating over his shoulder—is one of true friends and near-misses, one that is familiar and foreign, in equal parts. If McKee’s first journey was to Borneo, and his second into his own unknown future, we get to take his third journey with him, back into the land of what-was. Finding Myself in Borneo is a beautiful book about a brilliant life: a rare read.”
—Michael Buckley, short story writer
“....A highly readable flashback to life of a foreign volunteer teacher in Sabah during the 1960s and 1970s—a time when big changes were just starting to sweep across a land full of eager communities and unspoilt tropical forest....Travelers will find this book a fascinating read. McKee's succinct wit offers first-time visitors to Borneo vivid historical bearings to frame their present-day experiences, as they travel through this land, still full of many attractions. Malaysians and Sabahans will discover in McKee's observations, issues to debate on rainy afternoons.”
—S.Y. Chin, Asia-based editor
“What a great story! One can't help but become engaged in McKee's adventures and experiences in such an unusual locale. He recognized the importance of staying out of local politics and feuds and focused instead on the lively and rich panorama of Sabah culture and its setting. His founding of the North Borneo Frodo Society is, of course, a highlight, but there are many others, like his motorcycle rides through the countryside, his encounters with a confused school headmaster, and his initial frustrations in becoming a film maker. The illustrations, maps, and short history of Borneo are welcome additions to this memorable story. His comments and musings about return visits to Kota Belud were especially thoughtful and meaningful to anyone who makes such a journey to an earlier home.”
I am a creative nonfiction writer, presently concentrating on the beginnings of my international career as a teacher, filmmaker, and media producer in many countries around the world. My first work in this genre is a travel memoir on my early experiences as a high school teacher in North Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia) during 1968-70, as well as stories of my second two-year sojourn (1973-74) to this exotic land and follow-up visits.
More memoirs are also in the works, including one on my childhood and youth based on the humorous theme of trying to escape my polluted, industrial home town in Southern Ontario, and another on searching for the stories of my ancestors in Canada and the USA. I am also beginning the outline for a memoir on my 45-year, international career as a filmmaker, media producer, and cultural explorer, traveling on assignments to over 80 countries and living and working for 18 years in Asia, Africa and Russia.
I hold a BA in Psychology from the University of Calgary, Alberta (1968) and a Master of Science in Communication from Florida State University, Tallahassee (1988). I am the author of several books, articles and manuals on communication for development and the producer/director of many films, videos and multi-media initiatives.