Archive - 2009

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Another Taylor, Another Best Book Of The Year
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Talking To, With, And About The Peace Corps
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RPCV David Taylor’ The WPA Writers’ Project Makes Best Book Of 2009 List
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RPCV Bissell in Sun Magazine
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Review: What the Abenaki Say About Dogs: Poetry by Dan Close (Ethiopia 1966-68)
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Review: At The Table Of Want by Larry Kimport (Malaysia 1980-82)
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The Peace Corps Launches Digital Library
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Review: Bryant Wieneke's (Niger 1974-76) new thriller
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RPCV Martha Cooper (Thailand 1962-64) Amazing Book
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The Curious Case of Peace Corps Evaluator Mark Harris

Talking To, With, And About The Peace Corps

Karen Chaput, Video Production Manager in the Office of Communications for the Peace Corps, caught up with me when I was in D.C. recently and asked if I would sit down and be interviewed for her digital project. She recently sent me the unedited transcript of my 40 minutes with her talking about the history of the agency and the work we have been doing with Peace Corps writers. Here is a brief except from those 40 minutes. (With some additional editing by the author.) Q. John, you’ve devoted a lot of your personal time to Peace Corps writers over the years.  You obviously have a passion for helping people recreate their Volunteer stories.  Can you explain a little bit about that? John:  Well, oddly enough, I’ve only written one story myself about the Peace Corps, and I have published 25 novels and books of non-fiction. Two of my collections, one fiction and . . .

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RPCV David Taylor’ The WPA Writers’ Project Makes Best Book Of 2009 List

Bob Hoover, book editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has just picked the Best Books of  2009. On the short (10 books only) non-fiction list is Soul of A People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America” by David A. Taylor (Mauritania 1983–85).  Quoting Hoover in his selection, “This 1930s version of a stimulus package reinvigorated a starving artist class in America with jobs for out-of-work writers. The results, while uneven, were remarkable. Taylor provides a basic history of this project.”   Nicely done, David! Read our review of the book at: http://peacecorpsworldwide.org/rpcv-taylors/  

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RPCV Bissell in Sun Magazine

The Sun–a very fine small magazine published by Sy Safransky in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that you should read (and could write for) just published (January 2010) a short piece by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996-97)  in their Sunbeams column, which is the back page of the publication. Sunbeams are short items that shed light on a particular topic. Bissell has a comment on the Environment. Tom writes: Environmentalism suddenly struck me as the most obvious philosophy imaginable: Let us not ruin forever where we live and work and breathe and eat. Earth’s future inhabitants will no doubt look upon our current environmental practices–maintained despite all manner of evidence that doing so will result in  planetary ruin–roughly the way we look upon eighteenth-century surgery. And that is if we, and they, are very lucky.” Tom is now teaching creative writing at Portland State (if you are looking for a writing class to take) and you . . .

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Review: What the Abenaki Say About Dogs: Poetry by Dan Close (Ethiopia 1966-68)

Reviewer Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of fifty-five, then went on to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002. She has written a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, and is working on a memoir of Haiti. • What the Abenaki Say About Dogs, and other poems and stories of Lake Champlain by Dan Close (Ethiopia 1964–66) 53 pages Tamarac Press $10.00 2009 Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) Dan Close met a group of Abenaki Indians sifting through a yellow loader filled with sand, looking for their ancestors’ bones. Someone was building a “new house by the river” and the Abenaki . . .

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Review: At The Table Of Want by Larry Kimport (Malaysia 1980-82)

Reviewer Jan Worth-Nelson teaches writing (fiction, poetry, personal essay, freshman comp) at the University of Michigan – Flint. Her Peace Corps novel, Night Blind, was a top-ten finalist in literary fiction in the 2006 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year awards. Her most recent publication, “Ordinary Dirt,” was part of a Driftwood Review special issue featuring poems of exactly 100 words.  Her work in multiple genres has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, and many literary magazines.  She commutes between Flint and Los Angeles with her husband, Ted, who’s also an RPCV (Turkey 1964–66). She took time out to review Larry Kimport’s novel At the Table of Want that was published in October. Here’s what she had to say. At the Table of Want by Larry Kimport (Malaysia 1980-82) October, 2009 338 pages $16.97 Reviewed by Jan Worth-Nelson (Tonga 1976–78) Like Larry . . .

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The Peace Corps Launches Digital Library

The new Peace Corps Director, Aaron Williams, has just announced the launching of the Peace Corps’ Digital Library, a searchable collection of electronic Peace Corps materials from 1961 to today. He wants RPCVs and PCVs to send in narratives and photographs to the library. The Digital Library, Aaron says, ” will be a a living collection that represents the agency’s legacy of public service.” He is asking that RPCVs and PCVs contribute up to five photos and one story to the Digital Library via online submission forms. The way that it is set up is that visitors can either browse the individual collections or search by keyword, the host country name, or a specific period of time. At the moment the Digital Library is very much a work in progress, and will not be as comprehensive  as the collections at the National Archives and the Kennedy Library. If you want to find out more about . . .

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Review: Bryant Wieneke's (Niger 1974-76) new thriller

Bryant Wieneke is an assistant dean at a California university and has self published several novels. The latest, The Mission Priority, is the third in that series. A fourth will soon be published and a fifth is now being written. “It became a vehicle,” says Wieneke. “The two main characters have opposite foreign policy objectives.”  This latest book is reviewed by the intellectual tag-team of Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) and his son, Ezequiel. The first in this series by Wieneke, Priority One, was reviewed in 2005 on Peace Corps  Writers by David Gurr (Ethiopia 1962–64). • The Mission Priority by Bryant Wieneke Peace Rose Publishing 2009 335 pages $10.00 Reviewed by Lawrence  (Honduras 1975–77) and Ezequiel Lihosit Do you miss the Bush era colored coded paranoia? I sure do. That was even better than building fallout shelters during the 1960’s. I only wish they had introduced some kind of anti-terrorist uniform with cool patches, maybe a . . .

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RPCV Martha Cooper (Thailand 1962-64) Amazing Book

Martha Cooper (Thailand 1963-65) taught English in Thailand before journeying by motorcycle from Bangkok to London, where she earned a degree in ethnology from Oxford. Then she settled down in New York and went to work as a staff photographer for the New York Post. It was during this time, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that she began to shoot some of the most famous photographs in the world. She spent several years photographing elevated subway lines from empty lots the rooftops of buildings in a crime ridden South Bronx, capturing New York City’s state of urban decay.  She was also able to gain the confidence of some of the most respected artists of this inner city community, such as DONDI, DURO, and LADY PINK. Assuming great risk, Cooper accompanied artists to train yards and lay-ups capturing many significant moments in aerosol art history. Taking these photos, Martha and Henry Chalfant assembled, Subway Art, a book . . .

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The Curious Case of Peace Corps Evaluator Mark Harris

One afternoon back in 1963 novelist Mark Harris received a telephone call from Sargent Shriver inquiring whether he’d be interested in writing a special report about the Peace Corps. Mark gladly accepted, then waited five months while his loyalty and sanity were investigated (been there, done that), and then went overseas  to West Africa where he wandered around for ten days in a country he called ‘Kongohno’  and then wrote his one-and-only Evaluation Report for Charlie Peters. Mark Harris retells all this in a book entitled, Twentyone Twice published in 1966. The book has two sections. One is about getting through security, the second is about Africa. The fictional name that he used of the West African country he visited is Kongohno…I’m not sure of the actual country, but I believe it is Sierre Leone. Old timers in the Peace Corps might know the real name of the country Mark Harris  visited as a Peace Corps Evaluator in 1964. But who was Mark Harris and why did . . .

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