Book Reviews

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

1
Review — INDIA-40 AND THE CIRCLE OF DEMONS by Peter Adler (India)
2
Review — IN THE BELLY OF THE ELEPHANT by Susan Corbett (Liberia)
3
Review — MUKHO MEMORIES by Don Haffner (Korea)
4
Review — SAMI THE WOOLY by Jay Hersch (Colombia)
5
Reviews — MOLP and KMEDJZIK by Woody Starkweather (Kazakhstan)
6
Review — TALES OF FAMILY TRAVEL by Kay Gillies Dixon (Colombia)
7
Review — LEARNING TO SEE by Gary Engelberg (Senegal)
8
Review — PORTRAITS OF INNOCENCE & SKETCHES OF JOY from Bie Bostrom (Kenya)
9
Bill Josephson reviews KILL THE GRINGO by Jack Hood Vaughn
10
Review — SEASONED by Tom Zink (Micronesia)

Review — INDIA-40 AND THE CIRCLE OF DEMONS by Peter Adler (India)

  India-40 and the Circle of Demons: A Memoir of Death, Sickness, Love, Friendship, Corruption, Political Fanatics, Drugs, Thugs, Psychosis, and Illumination in the Us Peace Corps by Peter S. Adler (Maharashtra, India 1966–68) Xlibris June 2017 406 pages $23.99 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle), $34.99 (hard cover) Reviewed by Richard M. Grimsrud (Bihar, India 1965–67) • THE SAGA OF A CENTRAL INDIAN PEACE CORPS GROUP This well-written, and almost perfectly presented memoir (I noticed only 2 typos in my reading of it, astounding for any book of 383 pages), was generally slow going for me at the beginning, became a page-turner largely because of its excellent irony in its extended middle section, and bogged down some at the end, perhaps, because it was a bit verbose and excessively philosophical in its conclusion. Nevertheless, India-4o . . . is certainly a good read for anyone with an interest in India and its development over the . . .

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Review — IN THE BELLY OF THE ELEPHANT by Susan Corbett (Liberia)

  In the Belly of the Elephant: A Memoir of Africa Susan Corbett (Liberia 1976–79) CreateSpace March 2016 396 pages $14.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Brooks Marmon (Niger 2008–10) • IN THE BELLY OF THE ELEPHANT is Susan Corbett’s memoir of her life as an aid worker with Save the Children in Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta) in the early 1980s, following her Peace Corps service in Liberia. Amidst descriptions of a hard scrabble life in Dori, a small town near the border with Niger, Corbett weaves in occasional reminiscences of her service in Liberia and the harsh attitudes of many of her family members in the US to her decision to work in west Africa. Much of the work can be quite jarring — a reflection of both Corbett’s experiences in the harsh climate of the Sahel as well as an extremely candid writing style. While the book . . .

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Review — MUKHO MEMORIES by Don Haffner (Korea)

  Mukho Memories: A Peace Corps/Korea Memoir by Don  Haffner (Korea 1972–75) Dog Ear Publishing May 2017 406 pages $20.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976–77) • MUKHO MEMORIES BY DON HAFFNER (Korea, 1972–75) is the fourth or fifth Peace Corps Korea memoir I’ve read. While the personalities of the authors make each distinct, these volumes (and likely Peace Corps memoirs about other countries of service as well) all tell roughly the same story: idealistic young American comes to an under-developed country, discovers the wonders and peculiarities of the place, and returns home forever changed by the experience. As a Korea RPCV myself (I arrived in Korea a few months after Haffner left), my own memories are quite similar to Haffner’s: the anxiety of being outside the US for the first time, in a non-English speaking country, no less; the triple-whammy shock of new cuisine, new culture, and . . .

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Review — SAMI THE WOOLY by Jay Hersch (Colombia)

  Sami the Wooly: The Most Beautiful Dog in the World by Jay Hersch (Colombia 1964–66) Peace Corps Writers March 2017 88 pages $12.50 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Review by: D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • AS YOU CAN SURMISE from the title, Sami the Wooly has a target audience of readers who are dog lovers. In addition to telling Sami’s story, it touches on the lives of six other Siberian Huskies that the author and his family have had in their lives. The author gushes over all of the huskies, but describes Sami as extremely special. For those interested in the Siberian Husky breed, there is just enough history of the breed. Also there is just a bit of information about dealing with a breed association and professional dog breeders. The author points out that the high-energy, freedom-loving huskies are not the right dog breed for everybody, and gives . . .

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Reviews — MOLP and KMEDJZIK by Woody Starkweather (Kazakhstan)

  MOLP: Charles & Louise, Book 1 by Woody Starkweather (Kazakhstan 2004–06) Birch Tree Books November 2016 (2nd edition) 264 pages $11.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle), $14.95 (Audible)   KMEDJZIK: Charles & Louise, Book 2 by Woody Starkweather (Kazakhstan 2004–06) Birch Tree Books November 2016 229 pages $11.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal 1963–65) • EVERY PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER returns from abroad with rich knowledge of a place and its people, with new and insightful cultural perspectives, and often with enough story material in head and heart to write a novel, or two . . . or more. Author Woody Starkweather is a case in point. He and his wife Janet Givens taught English in Central Asia and are now using their international experience for writing. Janet does memoirs, Woody does novels. The novels reviewed here are the first two in a series. They are entitled MOLP and KMEDJZIK, but I . . .

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Review — TALES OF FAMILY TRAVEL by Kay Gillies Dixon (Colombia)

  Tales of Family Travel: Bathrooms of the World by Kay Gillies Dixon (Colombia 1962–64) Peace Corps Writers October 2016 230 pages $12.00 (paperback), $4.00 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964–66) • “Mom . . . I have to go and now!” Anyone with children or even grandchildren knows that “potty time” comes fast and often, especially when you are getting ready to leave to go shopping or visit the doctor. I have not stopped laughing as each page shows the beauty of the Dixon clan . . . Mom, Dad, and four young ladies. All six members of the Dixon family are K’s . . . Kay, Kevin, Kristi, Karol, Kimberly, and Kandice. You just know this Travel . . . with the Dixon’s is going to be exciting and never a dull moment. Hard to put down and not want to read over each chapter again and again. What would we do without our children? . . .

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Review — LEARNING TO SEE by Gary Engelberg (Senegal)

  Learning to See and Other Short Stories and Memoirs from Senegal by Gary  Engelberg (Senegal 1965–67; staff/APCD Senegal 1967–69; Regional Training Officer/west and central Africa 1969–72) BookBaby September, 2017 164 pages $25.19 (paperback) [pre-order now] Review by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) • GARY ENGELBERG HAS LIVED in Senegal, West Africa for over fifty years. He is co-founder, along with Lillian Baer, former Director and current Board Chairman of Africa Consultants International (ACI), a non-governmental organization that promotes cross-cultural communication, American Study Abroad programs, health and social justice, including LGBTI rights. It’s otherwise known as The Baobab Center in Dakar. I became acquainted with Gary, Lillian and ACI when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Sine-Saloum region of Senegal from1993 to 1996. I have cherished their friendship and that of the staff at ACI that has become almost entirely Senegalese since Gary’s retirement a few years ago. Reading . . .

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Review — PORTRAITS OF INNOCENCE & SKETCHES OF JOY from Bie Bostrom (Kenya)

  Portraits of Innocence: The Children of Ahero Photographs by Bie E. Bostrom (Kenya  2004–06) CreateSpace May 2017 42 pages $20.00* (paperback)   Sketches of Joy: Drawings by the Children of Ahero, Kenya Collected by Bie E. Bostrom (Kenya 2004–06) CreateSpace September 2014 114 pages $25.00*  (paperback)   Review by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) • Born in 1941, Bie Bostrom was raised in a family of nine children in Antwerp, Belgium. She trained as a nurse, but she fell in love with photography after her father gave her a camera as a graduation gift. She took a five-year course in photography at an art school in The Netherlands, then went to London for her practical year, where she lived and worked for eight years. In 1977, Bie arrived in San Francisco where she met her husband while looking for a work studio. In 1980 the couple moved to New York and opened . . .

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Bill Josephson reviews KILL THE GRINGO by Jack Hood Vaughn

    Kill the Gringo: The Life of Jack Hood Vaughn Jack Hood Vaughn with Jane Constantineau Rare Bird Books May 2017 389 pages $17.95 (paperback), $11.03 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bill  Josephson (Peace Corps HQ 1961-66) • WRITTEN BY JACK in the first person, Kill the Gringo has 12 chapters and an afterword by his daughter, Jane Constantineau, who has a “with” Jack credit. With one exception, KTG is organized around Jack’s life and work. The exception is chapter 1, 1966–19 69, which covers Jack’s service as the second director of the Peace Corps. That service is also covered in chapter 8. I was a counsel in the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1966.  I first met Jack when I was Deputy General Counsel, traveling in 1961 with Sargent Shriver and the head of the Peace Corps’s Africa programs, George E. Carter, Jr., to Guinée to meet the head of Guinée, . . .

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Review — SEASONED by Tom Zink (Micronesia)

  Seasoned: A Memoir of Grief and Grace by Tom Zink (Micronesia 1968–70) An Off The Common Book 2017 238 pages $20.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Michael Varga (Chad 1977–79)  • THE DEATH OF Tom Zink’s older brother, Steve, at age 16 is a traumatic event in the life of the Zink family. Conservative Lutherans, the Zinks adhere to a gospel where a death is God’s will, unfolding, in all of its mystery. Tom is only 14 when he loses his brother as they are delivering newspapers and Steve is hit by a car. Tom relies on the adults around him to make sense of this tragic event. But the adults are grieving in their own solitary way and offer little help to the young Tom. He divides people into those who knew about Steve (the “before people”) and those who didn’t (the “after people”). And since so many of those Tom . . .

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