Peace Corps Writers: 2015 Releases

pcimageBelow is a partial list of Peace Corps Writers published during 2015. These two dozen were culled from the original announcements, reviews, and nominations at Peacecorpsworldwide.org with links to the original content where available. Please contact me with further titles or additional reviews you’d like to see posted to fully represent 2015 releases!

Marrying Santiago
by Suzanne Adam (Colombia 1964–66)
Peace Corps Writers
May 2015

Learning to Love Kimchi: Letters Home from a Peace Corps Volunteer
by Carol MacGregor Cissel (Korea 1973–75)
CreateSpace
May 2015
274 pages

Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job: Riding the Peace Corps Rollercoaster in Mali, West Africa
by Asifa Kanji and David Drury (both PCVs Mali 2011–12; PCResponse: Ghana 2012–13, South Africa 2013)
CreateSpace
May 2015
290 pages

A Hundred Veils
by Rea Keech (Iran 1967–69)
Real Nice Books
May 2015
310 pages

Review — PERCEPTION AND DECEPTION by Joe Lurie (Kenya 1967-70)
Perception and Deception: A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures Joe Lurie (Kenya 1967–70) Cultural Detective 180 pages 2015 $12.95 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Patricia S. Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962–64) • After completing my Peace Corps years in Peru and earning a graduate degree, I married, left my home-town of Milwaukee for New York City, and took up residence in a dinky studio apartment at Columbia University’s International House. My then husband, also a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, was pursuing his doctorate while serving as resident advisor. Author Joe Lurie is executive director emeritus of International House (I House) at the University of California, Berkeley, which opened in 1930.  “It is one of the largest, most diverse residential cultural program centers in the U.S., second only to the International House in New York City,” according to the introduction of Chapter Two. Lurie is especially equipped to write about the erroneous . . . Read More

Review — CROCODILE LOVE by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998-2000)
Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998–2000) Tranquilo Travel Publishing 294 pages 2015 $17.95 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Peter Deekle (Iran 1968–70) • When I served in Peace Corps/Iran in the late 1960s, I was urged to share my experiences with others upon my return to the United States.  Joshua Berman has fully accomplished this through his monthly column in The Denver Post, his five previous travel books, his blog and website, many articles in The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and other publications. Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon is Berman’s first narrative travel book, and one that not only vividly describes exotic locales, but also draws the reader into a compelling and extended story. The book makes the mysteries of different cultures both accessible and personal. As the author says early on in the book, “Everything about… Read More

Review — I AM ME BECAUSE OF YOU by Karen Lawrence with Jennifer Nelson (Kyrgyzstan 2004–06)
I Am Me Because of You: A Daughter’s Peace Corps Journey through the Eyes of Her Mother (Peace Corps biography from letters and phone calls, with photos) by Karen Lawrence with Jennifer (Lawrence) Nelson (Kyrgyzstan 2004–06) Beaver’s Pond Press 2015 364 pages $24.95 (paperback) — email iammebecauseofyou@gmail.com to purchase reviewed by Catherine Onyemelukwe (Nigeria 1962–64) . • I Am Me Because of You provides a valuable resource for the parents of Peace Corps Volunteers, though for those who are frightened to know what lies ahead they might want to wait until their offspring has been in the country a few months before reading! For those less nervous, the book can be a guide to the ups and downs of following a Volunteer through training and deployment. I love the cover of I Am Me Because of You. The dusty gold with the brown edges and snapshots superimposed on a world . . . Read More

Review — PEACE CORPS FANTASIES by Molly Geidel
PEACE CORPS FANTASIES: How Development Shaped the Global Sixties by Molly Geidel University of Minnesota Press, $30.00 320 pages 2015 Reviewed by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67) Please note the subtitle, herein: How Development Shaped the Global Sixties. This book is not a saga of the Peace Corps, but rather the conception and incubation of a plan to offer opportunities where none were available christened, “community development” (a fairly lame term I always thought). It is centered in the 1950s, an era that began in1950 but lasted till around1964, when men were men and women were having nervous breakdowns (treated with submersion in ice water, electric shock and lobotomies). Then 1965, accompanied by the Titan II rocket usher, broke open portal, and suddenly, Cassius Clay is Muhammed Ali; the Second Vatican Council turns altars around; Gloria Steinem dons a bunny suit to give an insider’s account of the casual acceptance . . . Read More

Review — SWIMMING by Karl Luntta (Botswana)
Swimming: Stories Karl Luntta (Botswana 1977-80; staff: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Western Samoa, Kiribati, Barbados) Excelsior Editions/SUNY Press September 2015 180 pages $16.95 (paperback — from publisher), $12.38 (Kindle) Reviewed by Ben East (Malawi 1996–98) • ONE THING IS CERTAIN for foreigners at work in much of Africa: the proverbs can be as colorful as they are vague, utilitarian as they are vexing. The truth can emerge — or remain obscured — with a single phrase applied in limitless ways. Truth, in these proverbs, lies in the eye of the beholder and not the object beheld. This principle is at work in the eight stories of Karl Luntta’s Swimming, each of which churns beneath the surface with traces of hidden truth. Whether his characters are far removed from the world we know — like Maag, digging his own grave at the edge of the Kalahari — or are much closer to home, Luntta’s . . . Read More

Review — BLOOD UPON THE SNOW by Martin Ganzglass (Somalia)
Blood Upon The Snow (A Novel of the American Revolution) Martin R. Ganzglass (Somalia 1966–68) A Peace Corps Writers Book March, 2016 344 pages $14.95 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Thomas E. Coyne • Martin . . . Martin . . . Martin, we need maps and illustrations. Your descriptions of battles and the human misery of war are excellent as usual, but having to go to Rand McNally to trace the route of the army takes away from the flow of the novel. Plus, I’m never going to be able to build a bridge over the creek just by visualizing your directions. Please! — Tom • Martin R. Ganzglass is at it again. In this, the third in his series of Revolutionary War novels*, he has captured the extreme and deep seated patriotism of our nation’s forebears, the disdain of the British military and Loyalists and the cruel reality of war. Those . . . Read More

Review — LOVE OR JUSTICE by Rachel Mannino (DC/staff)
True Crime on the Hawaiian Lei-Away Plan   Love or Justice Rachel Mannino (DC/staff) Limitless Publishing October 2015 408 pages $16.95 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Kitty Thuermer (Mali 1977–79) • He had me at “bodice ripper.” When John Coyne asked me to review Rachel Mannino’s Love or Justice, it was an easy sell. Too easy. After all, who could resist what a breathless reader called “a sexy, thrilling read . . ..  I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a sexy and tough alpha FBI male that’s broody and hot, and a thrill ride with sexiness and a book that will leave you wanting more.” Wanting more? What I wanted was to edit that run-on testimonial and then get out the smelling salts in anticipation of a hot read. Mr. Coyne had, after all, dubbed Mannino the E.L James of Peace Corps —referring to the Fifty Shades of Grey author. . . . Read More

Review — THE COLOR OF A LION’S EYE by Jane F. Bonin
The Color of a Lion’s Eye: Memories of Africa by Jane Bonin (Staff: Malawi, Niger 1994–2000) Border Press 114 pages 2015 $15.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Peter Deekle (Iran 1968-70) • For many Peace Corps Volunteers, their first opportunity to live and work in a foreign culture begins with their service abroad. They often keep a daily journal to help them organize and process their encounters with their host country. Jane F. Bonin, having enjoyed a long academic career and subsequent U.S. government assignment in Washington, D.C. offers a different “first opportunity” with the unique perspective informed by her maturity and a scholar’s capacity for order and reflection. After several decades as a scholar, parent and spouse Jane Bonin is free of family and financial obligations to accept an administrative post in a country heretofore unknown to her. As Bonin observes in The Color of a Lion’s Eye, “Many of the Peace . . . Read More

Review — TIME PASSAGES by Jay Hersch (Colombia)
Time Passages (Peace Corps memoir) Jay Hersch (Colombia 1964–66) A Peace Corps Writers Book October 2015 102 pages $7.99 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Ralph Bates (Colombia 1964–66) . This review was first published in the Winter 2016 issue of Friends of Colombia: Newsletter of the Colombia RPCVs • It isn’t often that a person gets to see paths in his or her life intimately interwoven in the journey of another  — in my case it is the journey of a dear friend. The author of that journey is Jay Hersch and his story is told in his entertaining book Time Passages. Jay and I go back to dormitory days at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1960. We didn’t know each other well, but Jay told me a few years later that he voted for me for Student Senate. Probably that revelation when we met, quite by surprise and . . . Read More

Review — WAVELAND by Simone Zelitch (Hungary)
Waveland: One Woman’s Story of Freedom Summer (Fiction) Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991–93) The Head & The Hand Press 2015 224 pages $18.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Linda Mather • “Once there was a girl who did everything wrong.” Waveland by Simone Zelitch starts with this sentence, which then sets the tone for the book. Most of the novel is set around events in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s including efforts to register black voters in Mississippi, to gain seats at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, to establish grass roots mobilization in Chicago. And much of that is common to most movements — the clash between the whites and blacks both in the organization of the movement as well as in the towns, the motivation of the volunteers (Beth notes that she didn’t join to type letters), to the philosophies of the organizers themselves (short term goals vs. . . . Read More

Review — WHY STOP THE VENGEANCE? by Richard Stevenson [Richard Lipez (Ethiopia)]
Why Stop the Vengeance? (A Donald Strachey Mystery — Volume 14) Richard Stevenson [Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962–64)] MLR Press 2015 248 pages $14.99 (paperback), $6.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Robert Keller (Albania 2008–09) • Well, I’m hooked. I put down Why Stop at Vengeance? ready to pick up another Donald Strachey mystery novel. And if the others are anything like this one, then they’re perfect summertime, beach reads. The lead, Donald Strachey, is a good-at-heart but slightly ambiguous private detective who rolls around Albany, NY getting into and out of trouble with less than reputable characters. Some are saints, others are down toward the other end of the spectrum. Why Stop at Vengeance? centers around an unholy alliance of right wing Christian zealots who spend millions to terrorize African countries with anti-gay propaganda and legislation. Strachey comes to the aid of a poor African man under political asylum; a man . . . Read More

Review — THE PEACE CORPS, SIERRA LEONE, AND ME by Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone)
The Peace Corps, Sierra Leone, and Me Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone 1964–66) CreateSpace August 2015 191 pages $12.50 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73) • THIS MEMOIR IS ABOUT THE JOURNEY of a naïve 19-year-old who joins the Peace Corps and heads “up-country” to Kenema, Sierra Leone, on the Liberian border, from 1964 to 1966. His trek was about seven years before my PCV experience in Guatemala, after which I eventually arrived in Sierra Leone with my family as the director of an international child care agency. My experience there allowed me to commiserate with much of Norman’s story. Upon my arrival in Sierra Leone, I remember thinking, “And I thought I knew what poverty was — and diseases — lassa fever and green monkey disease — yikes!” (I don’t remember Ebola being mentioned, but you get the picture). I’ve always admired the PCVs who served and were able to survive . . . Read More

Review — BREATHING THE SAME AIR by Gerry Christmas (Thailand, Western Samoa)
Breathing the Same Air: A Peace Corps Romance Gerry Christmas (Thailand 1973–76; Western Samoa 1976–78) Lulu April 2015 366 pages $22.95 (paperback), $8.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by James Jouppi (Thailand 1971–73) • FOR HIS INTRODUCTION, Gerry Christmas uses an eighteen page “Peace Corps Termination Report” dated April 16, 1976. The body of his memoir consists of sixty-nine letters — he calls them “Epistles” — written after his three-year Thailand Peace Corps tour was complete. While these Epistles, at times, are very “newsy,” they also express, sometimes in intimate detail, his feelings about his girlfriend Aied, and, in more general terms, his evolving philosophies about true love between American men and “nice” Thai women. He wrote the first five Epistles while preparing for another Peace Corps tour of duty, this time in Western Samoa, and these were sent to people he’d known in Thailand. Thirty-five more were sent from Western Samoa, mostly to . . . Read More

Memoirs

To Banquet with the Ethiopians: A Memoir of Life Before the Alphabet
by Philip Brady (Zaire 1980–82)
Broadstone Books
June 2015

Mersin-10, Turkey: Six Years in Northern Cyprus
by Eddie James Girdner (India 1968–70)
CreateSpace
2015

The Color of a Lion’s Eye: Memories of Africa
by Jane F. Bonin (APCD/Malawi, CD/Niger 1994–99)
Border Press Books
July 2015

Don’t Get Too Comfortable
by Robert Emmet Buckley Jr.  (Micronesia 1968–70)
May 2015

A Wild Hare: Finding the Life I Imagined
by Siffy Torkildson [Caroline Houle Torkildson (Madagascar 2001–02)] Sacred World Explorations
July 2015

Whispers of Honduras: A Peace Corps Experience
James Murren (Honduras 1997-99)
Self-published
November 2015

Throwing Rocks at the Moon: Loud, Hot, and Sweaty in the Dominican Republic
Zachary M. Gerth (Dominican Republic 2010-12)
BlueShoo
September 2015

The Toughest Job:The Crossroads of One Man’s Peace Corps Experience
by Scott M. Henrickson (Cote d’Ivoire 1995–96)
October 2015

Africa’s Heart: The Journey Ends in Kansas
by Mark Wentling (Honduras 1967-69, Togo, 1970-73
Peace Corps Writers
2015