Book Reviews

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

1
Review — SHADE OF THE PARAISO by Mark Salvatore (Paraguay)
2
Review — STORIES MAKE THE WORLD by Stephen Most (Peru)
3
Review — DREAM OF ANOTHER AMERICA by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador)
4
Review — A SILHOUETTE OF LIBERIA by Michael Lee (Liberia)
5
Review — WHY TRAVEL MATTERS by Craig Storti (Morocco)
6
Review — The Peace Corps Experience, 1969-1976 by P. David Searles (staff)
7
Review — DUSTY LAND by John Ashford (Botswana)
8
Review — TRAVELS IN SOUTH AMERICA by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)
9
Review — SLACKER’S CONFESSION by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)
10
Review — THE FARM ON THE RIVER OF EMERALDS by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador)

Review — SHADE OF THE PARAISO by Mark Salvatore (Paraguay)

  Shade of the Paraiso: Two Years in Paraguay, South America – A Memoir by Mark Salvatore (Paraguay 1989–91) Melbourne: Vine Leaves Press April 2018 292 pages $14.99 (paperback) Reviewed by Ben East (Malawi 1996–98) • MARK SALVATORE  writes simple, declarative sentences. His Peace Corps memoir, Shade of the Paraiso, is stripped to fact and detail, observation and truth. Even its replication of time — passing slowly at first, building inexorably over months, then racing quickly to its conclusion — makes the narrative foremost a work of literary control. It’s an art, how much the writer reveals of his existence in rural Paraguay — all the while revealing little of his own true emotions. The closest we get to knowing Salvatore is to appreciate his obvious fortitude in the face of familiar Peace Corps challenges: the petty counterpart; the bullying ‘big-man’; the general estrangement from community; the recurring uncertainty. Even . . .

Read More

Review — STORIES MAKE THE WORLD by Stephen Most (Peru)

  Stories Make the World: Reflections on Storytelling and the Art of the Documentary By Stephen Most (Peru 1965-67) Berghahn Books 2017 279 Pages $27.95 (paperback), $150.00 (hard cover), $15.37 (Kindle) Reviewed by Alana DeJoseph (Mali 1992-94) • FIRST AND FOREMOST,  let me state that this book is dense. It is packed full of wisdom and insights and history. It is not a fast read, nor is it an easy read, but it is well worth the time and enormously enriching and enlightening to anyone who delves into it. I should also say that I have had the opportunity to work with the author Stephen Most on two documentaries and feel much the wiser for it. Reading this book as we are developing A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps  was a fortuitous turn of events. Most’s clarity of vision and deep understanding of the complexities of documentary filmmaking . . .

Read More

Review — DREAM OF ANOTHER AMERICA by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador)

    Dream of Another America by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02) Gival Press February 2018 373 pages $20.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Clifford Garstang (South Korea 1976-77) • WITH THE EXCEPTION, perhaps, of Peace Corps Volunteers, most Americans have little understanding of the hardships faced by the poor in developing and underdeveloped countries. Without that understanding, it is easy to demonize those who choose to come to the United States—often illegally—in search of a better future. Certainly President Trump has taken that route, even raising the possibility of deploying troops along the border with Mexico to stop migrants, despite the absence of evidence that there is a growing immigrant threat. Clearly a gap exists between reality and the fear-mongering of some of our political leaders. Dream of Another America by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02) may help fill that gap. In this gripping novel, McMahon introduces us to . . .

Read More

Review — A SILHOUETTE OF LIBERIA by Michael Lee (Liberia)

  A Silhouette of Liberia — Photographs: 1974-1977 by Michael H.  Lee (Liberia 1974–76) Michael H. Lee August 2017 136 pages $59.99 (hardcover)   Reviewed by: Danielle Yoder (Panama 2012-2014) • A Silhouette of Liberia Photographs: 1974–1977 exhibits beautiful photography of Liberia’s landscape, architecture and people from a time when very little has been preserved. Mr. Lee walks us through his experience living, serving and working in Liberia. Through his lens he is able to capture what one might see in an ordinary day in Liberia, as well as intimate settings such as illusive secret societies and their traditions. Mr. Lee begins by providing some history of the country that informs both the conditions of the photographs shown from the mid-70s and also alludes to the impending civil war period. These shots show mostly friendly faces as well as typical living conditions and hardships born by denizens. I was surprised how . . .

Read More

Review — WHY TRAVEL MATTERS by Craig Storti (Morocco)

  Why Travel Matters: A Guide to the Life-Changing Effects of Travel by Craig Storti (Morocco 1970- 72) Nicholas Brealey Publisher April, 2018 202 pages $24.95 (hardcover), $13.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64) • Most RPCV think of themselves as seasoned travelers. (Well, maybe only me.) Still, after my first trip anywhere in 1962 as a PCV to Ethiopia, I did travel to Europe, lived for several months on one of the Balearic Islands and later spent ten months hitch hiking through twenty-seven countries in Africa. After that, as a travel writer for Travel & Leisure, Diversion, and LuxuryWeb Magazine, I went in 1979 to China, and on dozens of assignments to Europe, Central America, and Brazil. Recently I was on the first NPCA tour to Cuba. I like to think of myself as someone who knows his way around the world. Or, at least as I boast, “I . . .

Read More

Review — The Peace Corps Experience, 1969-1976 by P. David Searles (staff)

    The Peace Corps Experience: Challenge and Change, 1969-1976 By P. David Searles (Philippines Country Director 1971-74; Peace Corps Deputy Director 1974-76) The University Press of Kentucky March 1997 254 pages $21.96 (hard cover) Reviewed by David Elliott (Poland 1991-93; Staff-India 1966-68, Nigeria 1965-66, Sierra Leone 1964-65) • Was the Peace Corps on its deathbed in 1969? Did Director Joe Blatchford revive the patient with his “New Directions” medicine? In his preface, P. Searles is explicit as to his book’s “main message”: In late 1969, President Richard Nixon’s first Peace Corps director, Joseph H. Blatchford, announced a set of policies, which he labeled New Directions, that changed its [Peace Corps’] nature and ensured its survival…Without these changes its tenth anniversary (in 1971) would have been a wake mourning the death of the last of the Kennedy era. Peace Corps history buffs may find this book entertaining, even provocative. Searles was . . .

Read More

Review — DUSTY LAND by John Ashford (Botswana)

  Dusty Land: Stories of Two Teachers in the Kalahari John Ashford (Botswana 1990–92) Peace Corps Writers December, 2017 260 pages $13.00 (paperback)   Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • MANY RETURNED PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS (RPCVs) feel a need to share our stories of life in another country, and our often transformative experiences. Because most of our family, friends and coworkers just are not very interested, we find our audience in local RPCV groups and at RPCV conferences. John Ashford took the next step and filled his need by publishing two collections of stories. Dusty Land is the second of those story collections. The author and his wife Gen were midcareer and middle-aged professionals when they joined the Peace Corps and headed to the African nation of Botswana. This book of stories and his previous one, titled Meeting the Mantis – Searching for a Man . . .

Read More

Review — TRAVELS IN SOUTH AMERICA by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)

  Rob Thurston (Venezuela 1968–70; staff: Belize, Honduras 1972–77 ) wrote . . . I recently read Lawrence Lihosit’s book Travels in South America and submitted a review on Amazon.com. I liked the book  a lot, having been to many of the places he, his wife and sister-in-law traveled to in 1988. My late wife (Juanita Thurston (Venezuela 1968-70) and I took a similar trip right after our Peace Corps assignment in Venezuela (January 1970), then returned to work and live in Bolivia with USAID from 1980-85, just before Lawrence made his trip. Consequently, the account resonated with me. • Travels in South America by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) CreateSpace Dec 2017 – second edition 418 pages $22.95 (paperback) This is not your normal travelogue, and once opened its hard to put down. In 1988 Lawrence Lihosit, his Mexican wife, Margarita, and sister-in-law, Licha, take the reader far beyond notable sites and historical . . .

Read More

Review — SLACKER’S CONFESSION by Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras)

  Slacker’s Confession: Essays and Sketches By Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) CreateSpace 184 pages January 2018 $18.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Darcy Meijer (Gabon 1982-84) • Lawrence F. Lihosit’s latest book is a simple delight. His dozens of sketches make drawing look easy, and the essays are conversational and candid. His work and travels have taken him to Central and South America, and after eight years he carried home sketchbooks filled with 150 drawings and essays on art, travel, inspiration and technique. Slacker’s Confession is a tidy book in terms of scope and sequence: four parts, each with essay and sketches. Part I comprises Lihosit’s title essay and sketches from Uruguay, Argentina and Chile; part II his essay “Pen to Paper” and sketches from Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador; part III “Drawing Outdoors” and sketches from Panama, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala; Part IV “Materials” and sketches from Caribbean and South . . .

Read More

Review — THE FARM ON THE RIVER OF EMERALDS by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador)

  The Farm on the River of Emeralds by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67) Vintage Departuers 344 pages July 1989 $9.99 (paperback) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) • While perusing my favorite books above my desk today, I realized that I’d never reviewed a book of my favorite Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Moritz Thomsen. He is best known for Living Poor, published in 1969, which is rated as one of the best Returned Peace Corps Volunteer memoirs of all time.  My personal favorite is The Farm on the River of Emeralds, the sequel, which tells a tale of endless reverses as a part owner of a farm on the northwestern coast of Ecuador—close to a hot, muggy, dirty, fishing village. The author struggles with his much younger, semi-literate black Ecuadorian partner, Ramon, and his wife Esther, battling nature, history and tradition in his efforts to develop a tropical farm in . . .

Read More

Copyright © 2016. Peace Corps Worldwide.