An ambitious novel set in the fictional Central American country of Tecan, A Flag for Sunrise attacks United States interference in the economy, politics, and culture of Latin American countries. Its title derives from Emily Dickinson’s question, “Sunrise, hast thou a flag for me?”—an unspoken plea by Stone’s characters as they pursue something beyond themselves, a new vision to salute tomorrow. The novel continually draws parallels with the horrors and fiascoes of Vietnam through the memories of the central observer, Frank Holliwell, onetime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, now a wandering professor. It asks what blood price Americans pay daily, the distant, violent human cost of tabletop salt or sugar. The novel brought Stone the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the John Dos Passos Prize for literature, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and nominations for the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award.
By exploring the fates of Americans whose lives become entangled in Tecanecan politics, Stone sums up the diverse motives that draw Americans into conflicts which he believes are none of their business and which they only vaguely understand. Characters include the bored and frustrated Roman Catholic nun, the beautiful and näive Sister Justin Feeney; the burned-out drifter, anthropologist Frank Holliwell, a would-be romantic, who only feels alive when involved in the mystery of conflicts in the threatening and oppressive tropics; and the aggressively...
(The entire section is 651 words.)