Author Interviews

Talking with published writers about their PC service, current life, writing their books, their advice for other writers — and what is in the works.

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Talking with Larry Berube (Morocco)
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Talking to Lenore Myka (Romania)
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Talking with Frank Rothman, author of BROOKLYN NY TO BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL
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Talking with Rob Schmitz (China), author of STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS
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Talking to Mark Jacobs (Paraguay) about his short story “Not John”
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Paul Theroux (Malawi) On Donald Trump
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Talking with Jonathan Weisman (Philippines 1988-90)
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Talking with Fran and Will Irwin about their book: The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan: A Promising Time
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Talking with Jason Gray (Gabon 2002-04) about Glimpses through the Forest

Talking with Larry Berube (Morocco)

  Last month Larry Berube (Morocco 1977–79) published with Peace Corps Writers his memoir Nuns, Nam & Henna: A Memoir in Poetry and Prose.  The poems and prose are recollections from his boyhood experiences at St. Peter’s Orphanage in Manchester, New Hampshire, from the age six to twelve; his time as a young soldier in the U.S. Army with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam; and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco where he worked in small villages of the Middle Atlas Mountain region of Morocco on various water projects. We talked to Larry recently about his life and his new book. •   Larry, you were a PCV from ’77 to ’79. Where were you and what was your job? I was in Beni Mellal, Morocco, which was a provincial capital. But my work took me to small villages in the Middle Atlas mountain region. My job was leading a local government surveying team, which . . .

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Talking to Lenore Myka (Romania)

  Lenore Myka is the author of King of the Gypsies: Stories (BkMk Press, 2015), winner of the 2014 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, and a finalist for the 2016 Chautauqua Prize. A recipient of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, Lenore’s fiction has been selected as distinguished by The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading series. Her award-winning work has appeared in New England Review, Iowa Review, Massachusetts Review, West Branch, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among others. She received her MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College and an MA from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania from 1994 to 1996, and is currently working on a novel set in her hometown of Buffalo, NY. • Lenore, what is your academic background? I studied English Literature as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, and . . .

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Talking with Frank Rothman, author of BROOKLYN NY TO BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL

  In May Franklin D. Rothman (Brazil 1967–69) published his memoir Brooklyn, NY to Bocaiúva, Brazil: A Peace Corps Love Story with the Peace Corps Writers imprint. Here Frank talks about his Peace Corps days, life after Peace Corps and the writing of his memoir. • What was your Peace Corps project assignment in Brazil? Clubes Agricolas/Rural Community Action in Minas Gerais State (MG). The statewide project in selected municipalities in the interior of the state was conducted in coordination with State Secretaries of Agriculture and Education. Following a pre-assignment drop-off in the municipality of Carandaí, I expressed my desire to be assigned there, to join Lavonne Birdsall, who would be extending for her third year. Tell us about where you lived and worked. In the town of Carandai, I lived in a rented room known locally as the Palácio do Urubu (Vulture’s Palace). The property owner and his family lived . . .

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Talking with Rob Schmitz (China), author of STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS

ROB SCHMITZ (China 1996-98) is the China correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace, the largest business news program in the U.S. with more than 12 million listeners a week. He has reported on a range of topics illustrating China’s role in the global economy, including trade, politics, the environment, education, and labor. In 2012, Schmitz exposed fabrications in Mike Daisey’s account of Apple’s Chinese supply chain on “This American Life,” and his report headlined that show’s much-discussed “Retraction” episode. The work was a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Click to hear His Rob’s “Marketplace” stories. We emailed each other over the course of a few weeks for this interview, and I was helped with questions from a press releases from Crown Publishing about Rob’s new book . . .

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Talking to Mark Jacobs (Paraguay) about his short story “Not John”

  Mark was a PCV in Paraguay from 1978 to 1980. After the Peace Corps he earned a doctorate in English from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, then joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and served in Latin America, Turkey, and Spain. Today he spends about five months a year going abroad on teams inspecting American embassies. Over the years he had published a number of books, A Cast of Spaniards, a collection of story with Talisman House; Stone Cowboy a novel from Soho; The Liberation of Little Heaven, another collection of stories and published again by Soho; the novel  A Handful of Kings, from Simon and Schuster; and Forty Wolves, a novel published by Talisman House. He has also published somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 stories in magazines including Playboy, The Atlantic, The Baffler, The Kenyon Review, and The Idaho Review. Stories of his have won the Iowa . . .

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Paul Theroux (Malawi) On Donald Trump

  Why is Donald Trump popular? Travelling around America’s south for his most recent book Deep South, the writer Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) got some ideas. “It’s the gun show guys,” he says, sitting in his Hawaii home. “Virtually everything Donald Trump says, you can find on a gun show bumper sticker. Anti-Obama stuff, anti-Muslim stuff, anti-Mexican stuff, anti-immigrant stuff.” The 74-year-old warms to his theme. “Gun shows are about hating and distrusting the government … people who have been oppressed by a bad economy, by outsourcing. They have a lot of legitimate grievances and a lot of imagined grievances. There is this paranoid notion that Washington is trying to take their guns away, take their manhood away, take this symbol of independence away. They feel defeated. They hate the Republican party, too. They feel very isolated.” Alexander Bisley writing in The Guardian interviewed Theroux about his new book. Read the article . . .

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Talking with Jonathan Weisman (Philippines 1988-90)

Jonathan Weisman (Philippines 1988-90) is the Washington based economic policy reporter for The New York Times.  He has also worked for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal , and USA Today. Now he has written a novel, No. 4 Imperial Lane. • What was you college background and reasons for joining the Peace Corps? I went to Northwestern University with a year abroad at the University of Sussex, double majoring in journalism and history with a concentration in Africa and the Middle East. I was torn in those years between my love of old-fashioned newspaper writing and my interest in economic development. I actually had been thinking of the Peace Corps for years — I had a romantic vision of myself in an arid village in the Sahel struggling against the elements. But in the end, I applied more to use it as a tie breaker. My experience in the . . .

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Talking with Fran and Will Irwin about their book: The Early Years of Peace Corps in Afghanistan: A Promising Time

What happens with two young kids who meet, say, in a place like Kabul, Afghanistan, when they are 23 or 24, as Volunteers in the Peace Corps? Let’s say they’re PCVs helping to develop a city newspaper; let’s call it the Kabul Times, and then they fall in love. (Sounds like a movie, right?) They finish their tour and marry, and have long and productive years together, one with a career as an NGO environmental policy analyst (that’s the girl), and the boy, well, he becomes a lawyer (don’t they all?), and then (of course) next he is a judge. (With every sentence this sounds more like a movie, or better yet, a Netflix film.) They retire and are living happily ever after in leisure. Then they happen to go to a Peace Corps Conference, let’s say the 50th Anniversary of the agency.  They hear PC/Afghanistan’s first director Bob Steiner . . .

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Talking with Jason Gray (Gabon 2002-04) about Glimpses through the Forest

Jason, tell us a little about yourself, pre-Peace Corps. Well, I grew up on the windswept plains and in the high mountains of Montana, in a town on the Missouri River called Great Falls. Most weekends, my family would seek out some outdoor adventure, whether it be fishing, or hiking, or skiing, or mending fences for the horses we raised. I developed the travel bug early on as well, and have enjoyed visiting many natural areas in the United States and abroad. My formative education years were spent studying French, ecology, and conservation biology, which lead me to study abroad programs in Paris, France and in Kenya. Upon graduation from college, I knew I had to go back to Africa and I jumped at the chance to serve in the Peace Corps. Gabon proved such a remarkable place that I stayed on after my Peace Corps service with WWF International, . . .

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