Book Reviews

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

1
Review: NUNS, NAM & HENNA by Larry Berube (Morocco)
2
Review: of A SILENT HERALD OF UNITY by Martha Driscoll (Ethiopia)
3
Review: HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND AVOID SACRED COWS by David Macaray (India)
4
Review: MAIL FROM KYRGYZSTAN by Michael Licwinko (Kyrgyzstan)
5
Review: PHOBOS & DEIMOS by John Moehl (Cameroon)
6
Review: GRAMPA JOE as told to Troy Montes (El Salvador)
7
Review: PAPER MOUNTAINS by Jonathan Maiullo (Armenia)
8
Review: THE WETBACK AND OTHER STORIES by Ron Arias (Peru)
9
Review: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE CONDOR by Emily Creigh (Paraguay)
10
Review: FROM FREEBORN TO FREETOWN AND BACK by Patrick O’Leary (Sierra Leone)

Review: NUNS, NAM & HENNA by Larry Berube (Morocco)

  Nuns, Nam & Henna: A Memoir in Poetry and Prose Larry Berube (Morocco 1977-79) Peace Corps Writers Imprint January 2017 59 pages $5.99 (paperback), $1.99 (Kindle) Review by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) • In Nuns, Nam & Henna: A Memoir in Poetry and Prose, the two-page prologue is one of the most powerful openings I’ve ever read.  The author is six years old. His three sisters and mother are at the kitchen table when the father comes in and starts striking the mother in the face with a hammer! Shock and bedlam ensue, his mother screams to her son to get help, but he is paralyzed, and his sister instead runs for help.  This moment haunts him, perhaps for his whole life.  His mother could not forget it, as she brought it up whenever they got drunk together.  “Why didn’t you go get help?” “The unanswerable question finally stopped . . .

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Review: of A SILENT HERALD OF UNITY by Martha Driscoll (Ethiopia)

  A Silent Herald of Unity: The Life of Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu by Martha Driscoll OCSO (Ethiopia 1965–67) Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications 1990 142 pages $45.94 (hard cover), $4.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962–64) • FOR NON-BELIEVERS, Protestants or Catholics who no longer attend services or Mass, the experience of reading this book will be like entering an exotic country without benefit of cultural sensitivity training. I speak as a still-practicing Roman Catholic, despite my disagreements with Rome. Without familiarity with the concepts and language of monasticism, self-denial (lots of it), ritual, and frequent prayer, at a time when women continue to press for respect and equal treatment under the law, this book will appear anachronistic. Readers would do well, however, to reserve judgment and pay respectful attention to the no-nonsense prose of Sister Martha Driscoll. “Mother Martha,” as she is known, is Mother Superior of an Indonesian . . .

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Review: HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND AVOID SACRED COWS by David Macaray (India)

    How to Win Friends & Avoid Sacred Cows: Weird Adventures in India: Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims When the Peace Corps was New by David Macaray (India 1967-68) The Ardent Writer Press (Brownsboro, Alabama) December 2016 291 pages $29.95 (hardcover), $19.95 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Kitty Thuermer (PCV/Mali 1977-79) • Every Peace Corps Volunteer has a near-death story. For David Macaray, supplementing his diet of curry and rice with a ball of opium did the trick. But not to worry. Had he died, he wrote, “Our mothers and fathers would have received the obligatory telegram from the State Department: ‘Dear Parent: [stop] Your son ate opium, passed out, and set house on fire. [stop] He is deceased. [stop] Details to follow.” Fifty years later, one wonders if Macaray, in a fit of nostalgia, ingested a bit of opium while organizing this sometimes heartbreaking, but mostly hilarious, book. Because it’s not really . . .

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Review: MAIL FROM KYRGYZSTAN by Michael Licwinko (Kyrgyzstan)

  Mail from Kyrgyzstan: My Life as an Over-50 Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Licwinko (Kyrgyzstan (2008–10) Self-Published November 2016 300 pages $15.99 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Catherine Varchaver (PC/HQ 1990–94; Kyrgyzstan APCD 1995–97)   • In this journal-like collection of annotated blogs and emails, Michael Licwinko sketches a lucid, patient portrait of life as an older Peace Corps Volunteer posted in a remote corner of Central Asia. Licwinko takes us from 2008 to 2010 and gives us a glimpse into the culture and people of Kyrgyzstan — and some of the satisfying and shadowy sides of the Peace Corps experience. If you want to take a virtual trip to Kyrgyzstan by reading one man’s observations and stories, this will help you travel Lonely Planet style — on the cheap, with plenty of “local (post-Soviet) color” and details on what to expect. This isn’t about places to visit and cool things to do. This is about local . . .

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Review: PHOBOS & DEIMOS by John Moehl (Cameroon)

  Phobos & Deimos: Two Moons, Two Worlds (short stories) by John Moehl (Camaroon 1974–80) Resource Publications August, 2016 136 pages $17.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle), $37.00 (hard cover) Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993–96) •   It is my hope the reader will find in this work a glimpse of lives that may at first seem very foreign; so different as to be pure invention. These are fictional lives and fictional stories; but they are based on real events, real people and real places. John Moehl introduces his short story collection, Phobos & Deimos: Two Moons, Two Worlds, by stating that the moons of Mars are a metaphor for his world that has been “. . . pulled by the forces of two different moons ≈ two worlds.” Moehl’s worlds exist in foreign countries, particularly Africa, and the United States. “But, as moons, each world is linked to one planet, and part of the same . . .

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Review: GRAMPA JOE as told to Troy Montes (El Salvador)

  Grampa Joe: Portrait of a Quiet Hero (memoir) Troy D. Montes (El Salvador 2004–06), editor Patriot Media Incorporated May 2016 $14.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96 • Troy D. Montes holds degrees in International Studies, Spanish and Linguistics from the University of Oregon and a degree in Philosophy from Portland State University, as well as a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from the School for International Training Graduate Institute. Troy is also a poet and writer. This last skill shows brilliantly in his impeccably edited memoir told to him by his Grampa Joe. The book was published by Patriot Media: Publishing American Patriots, an organization I’d never heard of, but found touchingly appropriate for Joe’s story. Joseph Manly Davis was a humble hero of World War II, serving in the most violent terrain in Europe – Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, through France, Belgium and Germany. In . . .

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Review: PAPER MOUNTAINS by Jonathan Maiullo (Armenia)

  Paper Mountains: An Armenian Diary (Peace Corps memoir) Jonathan Maiullo (Armenia 2008–10) Gomidas May 2016 164 pages $22.00 (paperback) Review by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) • My Armenia is not a country. . . . It is a place without a physical form. It is a collection of events shaped by external pressures. Jonathan Maiullo was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia from 2008 to 2010. He taught English classes in Yeghegnadzor when he wasn’t exploring the country on foot. After his service, he taught English in Paraguay, among other places, and hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2016. He was an actor, and he studied veterinary medicine. He changed his name in 2001 from Dickerson to his grandparents’ real name that was changed upon immigration to the U.S. (I love that, being of Italian descent also.) What struck me most about this writer is his ultra-keen observations. He’s a verbal camera. He . . .

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Review: THE WETBACK AND OTHER STORIES by Ron Arias (Peru)

  The Wetback and Other Stories Ron Arias (Peru 1963–65) Arte Publico Press September 2016 160 pages $17.95 (paperback)   Reviewed by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965-67) • In The Wetback and Other Stories, Ron Arias’ tales are both loving and strange, loving because the setting is most often in a close-knit neighborhood where wisdom is often carried by children and old people, and strange because he frequently slides effortlessly into magical realism. His gift is perhaps best embodied in the title story, “The Wetback.Æ The body of a young man is discovered by children in the dry riverbed of the Los Angeles River and becomes an object of awe, admiration, and love for the whole neighborhood.Young and old gather to look at him; they undress him, admire him, name him, and help an elderly spinster take him (the body) home, unleashing a series of events that, for this reader, are strange and . . .

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Review: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE CONDOR by Emily Creigh (Paraguay)

Journey to the Heart of the Condor: Love, Loss, and Survival in a South American Dictatorship Emily C. Creigh (Paraguay 1975–77) and Dr. Martín Almada Peace Corps Writers February 2016 470 pages $17.50 (paperback), (Kindle)   Reviewed by Kay Gillies Dixon (Colombia 1962-64) • Two stories, two people co-existing, contrasting but not connected yet together in Paraguay. In Journey to the Heart of the Condor, author Emily Creigh chronicles her coming of age experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay in the 1970s while Dr. Martin Almada narrates his ordeal as a political prisoner in Paraguay during the same time period. The heart of the book is Dr. Almada’s gripping narrative. Imprisoned for 1,000 days during the dictatorship of President Alfredo Stroessner, Dr. Almada describes the atrocities of his and others prison existence. His doctoral dissertation Paraguay: Education and Dependency, inspired by the Panamanian model of educational reform, as well as the works of . . .

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Review: FROM FREEBORN TO FREETOWN AND BACK by Patrick O’Leary (Sierra Leone)

  From Freeborn to Freetown & Back Patrick O’Leary (Sierra Leone 1966–68) Peace Corps Writers September 2016 146 pages $14.95 (paperback), $10.00 (Kindle) Reviewed by Ruth Alliband (India 1966–68) • I read Patrick O’Leary’s Peace Corps memoir From Freeborn To Freetown & Back with special interest. Both Patrick and I were accepted into Peace Corps training in 1966. We trained at roughly the same time. I left for India in late October of 1966 after two months’ Peace Corps stateside training in Albany, NY on a chartered Air India flight. In addition to two training groups of India Volunteers on board that plane, there was a contingent of Volunteers who had trained for Tanzania. They left the Air India flight in Brussels to make connections for their flight to Africa. Patrick’s experience of being reassigned and repurposed is a variation of my own. It seems to me that the uncertainties of . . .

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