Author of Whitewashed Jacarandas

Diana Polisensky is a recluse living in a tree house on the edge of the Pacific. When colonialism was still respectable she was born into a medical family and grew up in a swimming pool in Africa. She crossed the Atlantic as a young woman and experienced life on all three American coasts, ending her career in genetic engineering behind the hedges at Rice University in the Lone Star State.

Whitewashed Jacarandas, the debut novel from Diana Polisensky.

Diana was born in Salisbury in the 40’s and grew up in Que Que, the heart of Southern Rhodesia. She emigrated to the United States of America in 1967 and became a US citizen in 1975. She has lived for extended periods on all three coasts and in between as well as sandwiching 4 years back in South Africa somewhere along the line.

Diana followed a career in Medical Technology, then Genetic Engineering, authoring and contributing to numerous scientific publications. She most recently retired from thirteen years at Rice University, Houston, Texas. She is hard at work on her magnum opus, still plagued by that self-imposed exile from that place she once called home which does not exist anymore.

Southern Rhodesia was British then, but a self-governing settler colony. Her writing captures the wonderful days of innocence and idealism along with all the foibles and shortcomings of the folks in a small gold mining village, before Harold Macmillan’s Winds of Change swept down the length of Africa, in the early 60’s.

Whitewashed Jacarandas marks the first volume of a quartet describing the mostly ignored burst of development that took place between the end of WWII and the onset of the crisis with Britain over the rise of African Nationalism in Southern Rhodesia which led to rebellion, civil war and finally the election of Robert Mugabe.

Diana, born just after WWII, grew up in Que Que, a small mining town in Southern Rhodesia. It was an era of great expectations and idealism before the precipitate withdrawal by the British Government from its African territories. Her father was a Jewish doctor and her mother a gentile nurse. Diana trained at Salisbury Public Health Laboratories and Harare Hospital as a medical technologist. Newly married, she immigrated to the United States two years after the disastrous Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith in 1965. She has lived on all three coasts in the US, within the rimrocks of Billings, Montana and four years beside the gold dumps of Johannesburg, South Africa. She retired from Rice University to the Oregon coast, where she still lives with her husband. Her two sons live in Boston and Los Angeles.

Diana Polisensky (pronounced Pol-ish-SHEN-sky) was born and bred into a medical family in Southern Rhodesia and herself pursued a career first in medical technology and later in basic research in genetic engineering before she retired to the Central Oregon Coast.

Recently, ranked #2 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases, her historical African novel, Whitewashed Jacarandas is based on the memoirs, short stories, letters and bits and pieces left her by her parents. Research at the Bodleian Library at Oxford uncovered 15 boxes of catalogued material of Sir Edgar Whitehead’s including a memoir of his early years. Her work was greatly enriched by a number of memoirs of others entrusted to her by subscribers to her weekly blog oncecalledhome posted over three and a half years and is held together by a healthy dose of imagination and just a touch of farce here and there. It has been a long labor of love and reflects a productive and idealistic time in Africa that has been largely overlooked. Let’s give Diana a warm welcome…


  • Born and bred in a thirsty land Diana loves the water. She grew up in a swimming pool and has snorkeled in Lake Nyasa; surfed on the Wild Coast of South Africa; dived the rose coral fields of Wakatobi, Indonesia; but is finally content to walk the edge of the NW Pacific every evening.
  • When the science was new she pioneered the transformation of the glow gene from the firefly into a weed and tracked its movement with an $80,000 camera.
  • She discovered an anti-freeze gene in a plant, took out a patent and hoped to revolutionize the agricultural world–but nature was not that easily fooled.
  • Now retired and confined by her tree house to a deck garden she grows 50 pots of this and that in the short NW summer.
  • Once an avid bird watcher traveling far and wide in search of another bird to check off her life list, Diana is now content to watch the hummingbirds at the feeder, the herons wading in the bay and occasional osprey hovering overhead.
  • She makes the world’s best shortbread (its Matron Griffin’s recipe from the archives of the New Government Hospital).
  • What was the inspiration for the title for this book?
  • Tell us about Whitewashed Jacarandas.
  • What motivated you to write Whitewashed Jacarandas?
  • There’s been a lot written about the struggle for Southern Rhodesia’s independence and the Mugabe rule of Zimbabwe that followed. Why did you choose to write about the post WWII era in Africa?
  • In the book the school motto Non Sibi Sed Omnibus (Not for Ourselves but for All) is embraced by a number of characters including Princess Elizabeth.  Where did inspiration for this come from?
  • Why do you think this period in the country’s history is of importance?
  • Your research for this project is amazing. What effect has your research had on your life?
  • The author’s biography mentions that you received much input from your short story readers on www.oncecalledhome. How did this influence the book?
  • What has been the reaction to the story from expats?
  • What are your hopes for this book and its sequels?

Photos of Diana

Reader Reviews

See why Whitewashed Jacarandas debuted at #2 on Amazon's Hot New Release list!