Book Reviews

A look at books published by fellow RPCVs that hopefully you will want to read.

1
Review — WRITING ABROAD: A GUIDE TO TRAVELERS by Peter Chilson (Niger)
2
Review — FROM FREEBORN TO FREETOWN & BACK by Patrick R. O’Leary (Sierra Leone)
3
Review — ONE OF US by Sandi Giver (Uganda)
4
Review — MEANDERINGS by Gerald Karey (Turkey)
5
Review: ELEPHANT CAKE WALK by Andrew Oerke (Africa staff)
6
Review — CRESCENT BEACH by David Mather (Chile)
7
Review — THE RELUCTANT VOLUNTEER by Peggy Constantine (Brazil)
8
Review: PEACE CORPS EPIPHANIES by Anson K. Lihosit (Panama)
9
Review: HIDDEN PLACES by James Heaton (Malawi)
10
Review–SHOW ME THE GOLD by Carolyn Mulford (Ethiopia)

Review — WRITING ABROAD: A GUIDE TO TRAVELERS by Peter Chilson (Niger)

  Writing Abroad: A Guide to Travelers By Peter Chilson (Niger (1985-87) & Joanne B. Mulcahy The University of Chicago Press 224 pages $22.50 (paperback), $67.50 (cloth), $13.50 (Kindle) Reviewed by David Arnold (Ethiopia 1964-66) • EDITING THE WORK of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, I have learned that travel writing seems at first to be the easiest form of written narrative. That may be true if only you and your grandchildren are going to read it, but publishable travel writing is hard work. Most readers of a travel story in a magazine, a book or on a blog will not pay the fare and follow that writer’s taken path. They read the story so they won’t have to go, or they use the article to decide whether to go. Usually, they go somewhere else. In the end, the traveler’s tale must be satisfying as a passive reading experience. It takes . . .

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Review — FROM FREEBORN TO FREETOWN & BACK by Patrick R. O’Leary (Sierra Leone)

From Freeborn to Freetown & Back by Patrick R. O’Leary (Sierra Leone 1966–68) Peace Corps Writers September 2016 146 pages $14.95 (paperback), $10.00 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker  • THIS IS A WELL WRITTEN  that brings back many memories, as I worked in Sierra Leone for three years. When twenty-two year old Patrick O’Leary stepped off the plane in Sierra Leone, West Africa in January 1967, he was dressed for the snow storm he had left in Freeborn County, Minnesota a few days earlier, so it didn’t take long for him to realize his rural Catholic upbringing, training for Tanzania — his original Peace Corps assignment — and an earlier road trip to Key West, Florida — in a Cadillac hearse — would be less than effective in preparing him for a two-year stint in Binkolo, a small village outside of Makeni in western Sierra Leone. One unique aspect of . . .

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Review — ONE OF US by Sandi Giver (Uganda)

  One of Us: Sex, Violence, Injustice.  Resilience, Love, Hope. by Sandi Giver (Uganda 2009–11) Peace Corps Writers June 2017 260 pages $14.95 (paperback) Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) •   SANDI GIVER WAS A Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Uganda when she was raped by a member of the United States armed forces. This book is a memoir that started out as a written statement to the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) about her rape. It took incredible courage for the author to tell her story, and she does so with a candor and attention to detail that is remarkable. In addition to the core story of the author’s rape and participation in two military trials, she includes information about her childhood, her work history prior to Peace Corps, being physically assaulted by her landlord in Uganda, and much more. It is a very far-reaching . . .

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Review — MEANDERINGS by Gerald Karey (Turkey)

Meanderings: Inventions, Fripperies, Bits, & Bobs Gerald Karey (Turkey 1965-67) Small Batch Books 116 pages September 2017 $14.95 (paperback}   Reviewed by Will Siegel (Ethiopia  1962-64) • I’ve read that book titles should be ironic so as to provoke a sense of mystery, or perhaps just to turn the reader in the opposite direction of moral authority. Gerald Karey promotes the ironic in the first section of essays in his third volume, Meanderings. The subtitle seems to downplay expectations (Inventions, Fripperies, Bits, & Bobs), or call up the image of an English Squire. The irony here might be the author’s reluctance to take himself seriously, though he’s dedicated the volume to journalists killed in action, which portends a more serious look at the world. But remember we’re dealing here with irony. The first section “Sirens,” in fact, starts with a look back at the atomic bomb scare of many of our . . .

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Review: ELEPHANT CAKE WALK by Andrew Oerke (Africa staff)

  Elephant Cake Walk (Africa Poems) by Andrew Oerke ( (PCstaff: Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Jamaica 1966-71) Poets’ Choice Publishing, 2017 94 pages $19.95 (paperback)   Reviewed by Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79) • I distinctly remember coming home from work especially dispirited one day 15 or so years ago.  As a newly minted associate professor, I was in my “winning tenure, losing the thrill” phase, to quote a headline from The New York Times that stuck with me at the time. Strangely, I began to hear something resembling African percussion as I extricated myself from the car. I glanced up into our maple tree.  There were our two young sons, perched in its branches, sporting an eclectic mix of Senegalese, Ivoirian and Moroccan costume elements from the Peace Corps boxes in our attic, including pointed “el hadji” shoes (which must have substantially ramped up the difficulty of the climb). Somehow, our . . .

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Review — CRESCENT BEACH by David Mather (Chile)

  Crescent Beach by David J. Mather (Chile 1968–70) Peace Corps Writers March 2016 426 pages $14.95 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976-77)   • THIS WELL-WRITTEN NOVEL with a unique setting and very interesting, well developed characters who the author treats sympathetically. Author David Mather holds our interest by mixing background about Florida’s rural “Big Bend” region on the Gulf Coast and each character into the ongoing action of the story. It is a page-turner that is difficult to put down. The characters support each other and care for each other in heart-warming ways. By the end of the book, readers feel like they know these people and would be happy to have them for neighbors. The dialog is peppered with colorful, often humorous, local expressions. The author’s use of multiple narrators enhances the readers’ understanding of the different characters by allowing . . .

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Review — THE RELUCTANT VOLUNTEER by Peggy Constantine (Brazil)

  The Relunctant Volunteer: My Unforgettable Journey with the Peace Corps in Brazil Peggy Constantine (Brazil 1970–71 ) BookBaby May 2016 156 pages $15.00 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Sally LaRue (Mongolia 2015–17) • The Reluctant Volunteer captures the Peace Corps experience in its uncanny ability to transcend time and place. When I started to read this, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to relate since my own Peace Corps experience was over 40 decades after Constantine’s and in a completely different culture, climate, and time in our world. I was astonished to find that I could imagine it all and could relate in more ways than could ever be explained to someone who doesn’t have that experience. She beautifully depicts a realistic Peace Corps experience complete with all those self-conscious feelings of inadequacies, successes and failures, social factors most people don’t ever consider, and the multifaceted challenges . . .

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Review: PEACE CORPS EPIPHANIES by Anson K. Lihosit (Panama)

  Peace Corps Epiphanies: Panama by Anson K. Lihosit (Panama 2015–17) Peace Corps Writers July 2017 132 pages $13.95 (paperback) Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • Anson Lihosit was a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Panama from 2015 to 2017. He taught English in the small rural town of Torti. Lihosit is second generation Peace Corps. His RPCV (Returned PCV) father who served in Honduras in the ’70s strongly encouraged him to write about his experiences. This well-written, interesting and often humorous book is the result. If you are thinking about joining the Peace Corps, you should read this book. Also, if you served in the Peace Corps 30, 40 or 50 years ago and want to know what is different and what is the same for those in the Peace Corps today, this is the book for you. Even if you have no connection to the . . .

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Review: HIDDEN PLACES by James Heaton (Malawi)

  Hidden Places: A Journey from Kansas to Kilimanjaro (Peace Corps creative non-fiction) by James Heaton (Malawi [Nyasaland] 1962–64) Xlibris, 2016 May 2016 118 pages $19.95 (paperback), $29.99 (hardcover), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mary M. Flad (Thailand 1963–65) • James Heaton’s Hidden Places: a Journey from Kansas to Kilimanjaro is a beautifully written, and frequently hilarious, book. Heaton seems to have the gift of total recall of all of the details, and many of the misadventures, of his Peace Corps stint in Nyasaland in 1962 to 1964. Nyasaland was in transition to becoming the independent nation of Malawi. Heaton conjures up the mix of idealism, naiveté, escapism, and longing for adventure that characterized so many of us who entered service in “the Kennedy era.” His time in Africa was spent teaching science and English on the secondary-school level. In a little more than a hundred pages, he describes the memorable moments, . . .

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Review–SHOW ME THE GOLD by Carolyn Mulford (Ethiopia)

  Show Me The Gold (mystery) by Carolyn Mulford (Ethiopia 1962-64) Gale Cengage Learning 304 pages December 2014 $9.90 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Sarah Elizabeth Porter (Republic of Macedonia 2005-07) • Staking out a country graveyard to catch vandals ex-spy Phoenix Smith and Acting Sheriff Annalynn Keyser respond to a neighboring county’s urgent call. The old friends block an exit from an abandoned farmhouse where four bank robbers were spotted. The women engage in a fatal shootout but two gang members escape. Achilles Phoenix’s K-9 dropout can’t sniff out a trail but smells a trap set to kill pursuers. The FBI takes over the case but fails to find the fugitives or the gold coins they stole. Agents suspect Phoenix knows where the gold is. So do the elusive robbers. Phoenix must adapt her tradecraft to protect herself and others and to follow threads leading to the gang and . . .

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